If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1950


What religious belief is predominant in Russia?

The Greek Orthodox Church, I think, is the church that has the largest number of members, but I am told that the Baptist Church has the greatest number of members among the smaller sects.


Are you in favor of a federal divorce law, with standard grounds for all U.S. citizens?

Yes. It seems to me this would be preferable.


Why are members of the Merchant Marine who were active in the last war denied government loans, schooling and medical care? They did the same work as many Navy men, wore the same uniforms and dog tags, even received government service bars for their efforts.

The differences between the treatment, along certain lines, of the men in the Merchant Marine and the men in the U.S. Navy cause a great deal of trouble, but, as a matter of fact, the men in the Merchant Marine were paid on a higher level than the men in the Navy, and for that reason it was not considered necessary to give them exactly the same advantages that were given to the Navy men, who received much lower pay. It is quite true that men of the Merchant Marine did much of the same work as Navy men and probably did receive government service bars for their efforts. There has been a long-time argument, nevertheless, as to whether they should be entitled to the same benefits given Navy men.


The English people seem to consider any intimate biography of the royal family in bad taste—especially when it appears in an American magazine. Americans have no similar feelings about memoirs concerning the Presidential family. Why do you think this is?

I think the answer is very simple. The President in a democracy such as ours is important and is given a certain amount of formal recognition during the years he is President, because of his office. Certain duties and privileges devolve on his wife because of his office, but it is always thoroughly well understood that they, like everybody else, are just plain American citizens and that when the days of office-holding come to an end they will again be just plain Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Therefore there is interest in how they meet the situation which any American family feels it or its neighbors might meet. There is no feeling of bad taste in anything that is told about your neighbors, who are primarily of interest because their situation might become yours. Of course, the position of the Presidency is one which is close to the hearts of all the people of the United States, who feel themselves neighbors and sharers in this Presidential office.

In the United Kingdom the British people have a traditional feeling of awe for the royal family. It has always been set apart, and the privacy of the family has been very carefully guarded, because they are considered to be an example to the nation and to owe certain things to the nation and to themselves. The feeling, however, is changing, and I think the British people begin to sense that there is an advantage in creating a feeling of intimacy between the people and the royal family.


Is there any organization in this country to help young war widows?

Yes. The Gold Star Wives, at 500 Park Avenue, New York 22, N. Y.


Somewhere I read that you had a real inferiority complex or something of the sort when you were a young girl, and I would like to know how you overcame it.

Yes, I had an inferiority complex, which lasted during many years of my young married life and isn’t completely gone today. I suppose it was the force of circumstances that made me overcome it. There were certain things I had to do whether I liked doing them or not, and no matter how badly I did them I had to go through with them. More and more I have had to think about other people, and that always helps one to forget oneself.


Why do some states give bonuses to veterans and others not?

The state legislators vote on the question of a state bonus, and I suppose that where the legislators decide that their constituents are not favorable to a state bonus, they do not grant it.


Do you feel that after three offenses a driver should have his operator’s license revoked for life? If not, what would you suggest as an effective means of punishing habitual offenders?

No. I do not think three offenses should be punished by revoking a driver’s license for life. I think there should be categories of offenses, some more serious than others, and perhaps more serious punishment could be evolved for a serious offense.


In your opinion what is the basic difference between a Democrat and a Republican today?

It is very difficult to state in a few words the basic difference between the two parties today. My own feeling is that both parties are split, and the old idea that one is liberal and the other conservative can no longer be held, because there is a conservative element in both parties. The basic thing, I think, to those of us who prefer the Democratic to the Republican party is the fact the record shows that progress in legislation has largely been proposed and passed during Democratic administrations. So we feel there is a greater number of progressive people in the Democratic party.

[Walter Reuther] The president of the UAW-CIO asks: “What do you believe accounts for the failure of so many of our American citizens to vote? Do you feel that this lethargy or indifference is simply a part of the democratic system and that we will go on making progress in spite of it? Or do you think it constitutes a real threat to our basic freedom?”

I certainly do not think our failure to vote is part of our democratic system. I think it stems from the fact so many people believe that all rights and freedoms that go with democracy are going on regardless of what we do. It is not made clear to us from the time we are little children, at home and in the schools, that our duties as citizens in a democracy come before any other duties and that they will be respected by our employers. It should be made clear to employers also that the opportunity to vote must be given to all their employees. It certainly constitutes a threat to our basic freedom when citizens of a democracy neglect the most elemental of their duties—the duty to vote.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1950

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

McCall's, volume 78, November 1950

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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