If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1951


People I know who have been abroad tell me that the “Voice of America” broadcast is known in Europe and Asia as the “Funny Hour” and that, contrary to the impression given to us by the press, the United States is the most unpopular country in the world. If this is so, why is it being concealed from us?

I think the people who told you that the "Voice of America" is known in Europe and Asia as the “Funny Hour” were probably reporting on certain parts of Europe and Asia. I haven’t been listening myself with great care, but I heard nothing of the kind when I was in Europe last summer. I can quite imagine, however, that in the Iron Curtain countries and some of the countries of Asia they would try to make fun of these broadcasts to influence the people against them.

I also think that whoever told you the United States was the most unpopular country in the world was exaggerating a good deal. When one nation has a great deal and all the other nations are obliged to ask that nation for help, it is natural that no one who is on the receiving end is very happy. You may see that in your own community if you have anyone there who is well off and has to be constantly appealed to by other people for help. On the other hand, there is recognition of the good that we have done, and gratitude, which I think surpasses their natural feelings of envy and unhappiness which have followed the war.


My wife and I had a big fight about the Kinsey report. She feels a book like this puts unhealthy thoughts in people’s minds. I think it will probably do more good than harm. What is your opinion?

I think I feel as your wife does. This report is for mature people who want to read it because they can use the knowledge. I do not think it should be in the hands of people who consider it light and entertaining.


My first marriage ended very unhappily in divorce. A few years ago I met a man I thought I loved, but I was afraid to marry him for fear of repeating the first experience. We decided to live together for a while and see how things worked out. We are now happily married, but my family recently found out about our living together and won’t have anything to do with us. Do you think their attitude is fair?

You are putting a difficult question up to me. Your family has, of course, a right to act as they see fit. However, it is my experience that whatever families may do temporarily, there is no way of dissolving the family tie. Your children remain your children, your brothers and sisters remain your brothers and sisters. You may not approve of one another, you may at time almost dislike one another, but there is no real happiness in breaking family ties. It is better, I think, to accept whatever comes and give and keep the love which should exist among people of the same family.


I am in the eighth grade, and my class is having a debate on the question why don’t we just drop the atomic bomb on Russia before they drop it on us? I would appreciate it if you would answer my letter.

There is a very simple answer to your question. The country that uses an atom bomb in an undeclared war will be the most hated country in the world, and no one in that country will ever sleep without fear of reprisal. A great deal of destruction can be brought about, and a great many innocent people can be killed by dropping a bomb on Russia, but a country such as the Soviet Union, where the people are scattered over the land, would not suffer as we would here in the United States, with our population so highly concentrated in large cities.


How much sleep do you average a night? How much do you feel you need for a typical busy day?

I am afraid I vary the amount of sleep which I get. There will be nights when I get only four or five hours of sleep, but then I try to make up by a good eight-hour night’s sleep every week or so.


I understand that President Roosevelt used to have a couple of cocktails before dinner. What did he drink, and do you drink yourself?

I do not think that my husband often had a couple of cocktails before dinner. Sometimes he did, but not always, and many times he had none. When he made cocktails, he liked a Martini, a rum cocktail or an Old-Fashioned. It was more a question with him of a time to relax and have a few friendly minutes with people than of caring very much what we drank or even whether he had a drink. The doctors approved of it because they thought it helped his circulation.

I do not drink very much. Occasionally I have some sherry or a cocktail before dinner, though I too only do so with friends who enjoy a few minutes of friendly relaxation before the evening meal.


What kind of hostess gifts did you take the royal families of Europe on your trip last summer?

On my last trip to Europe I did not take a great deal, because conditions were so much better. When I went to London in 1948 I asked beforehand if there was anything special that I might bring, and I was told that Queen Mary would like some rice and some chocolates, and so I brought some. I brought a ham to the King and Queen and also some candy. I also took maple sugar and nylon stockings to some of my hostesses on this last trip, because those are things which are still hard to get in Europe. Hams, tongues, butter and sweets are still received with great joy.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1951

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

McCall's, volume 78, February 1951

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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