If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1951


My teen-age boys are sowing their wild oats in a way that shocks me. When I remonstrate they say what's the use of being serious, they'll be in the Army soon anyway. What can I say to them?

I think you might say to your boys that if they are going into the Army it is a serious undertaking and sowing one's wild oats is no preparation. Going into the Army in peacetime is a great opportunity for training, and they should look upon it in that way. Going into the Army in wartime is a dedication to the preservation of a free world, and I personally would feel that with a background of good family life and a good education, they had an obligation to think through the very high purposes which they are serving and to try to help the other boys who will be serving with them to see that this is not the end of life but the real beginning.


What was President Roosevelt's I.Q.?

I haven't the faintest idea.


My husband and I are Jewish. Our six-year-old daughter tells us she wants to go to the Baptist Sunday School, where most of her friends go, and not to the synagogue. Do you think it would be right to send her to a school of a different faith?

The question you have asked me is a very difficult one to answer, because I do not know what the feeling of your own church would be. If she were my child, I should try to let her go on alternate Sundays to my own church and the church she wants to attend with her little friends. In that way perhaps she would get a slightly different conception of the details of both rituals. But in the case of the Jews and Baptists there are perhaps more fundamental differences, and it might be very confusing to the child. I think this is something you will have to talk over with the child and decide in the light of your own religious beliefs.


I notice in an exchange of letters between your husband and Mr. Churchill that Mr. Roosevelt addressed the Prime Minister as "Dear Winston," and Mr. Churchill replied "Dear Mr. President." This seems odd.

I do not think it ever seemed odd to them. Occasionally in conversation Mr. Churchill called my husband "Franklin," but he had a very profound respect for my husband, and though there was very little difference in age he always felt the office of the President of the United States carried with it a certain obligation to formality in public, and being British he respected it more carefully than we might in this country.


Has anyone in your family been a conscientious objector? My brother is, and my parents are very upset about it. What advice would you give us?

No, no one in the family has been a conscientious objector. If you are convinced that your brother is one because of religious or ethical convictions, then you can only respect his courage and help him to face the many disagreeable situations which he is going to have to live through. I personally have always found it difficult to understand how any young man, even though he hated to take life, could permit someone else to fight his battles so that he might be free to live up to his ideals. In a world where force still prevails he may have to accept slavery. I can understand a little better the Quaker type of service, which allows a man to go on the battlefield and help with the wounded even though he does not wish to bear arms.


What salary will I make as a private in the WAC, WAVES or Marines?

Upon entering any of these services you will start at $75 a month, and after four months training you will receive $80 a month.


It seems to me American troops have done almost all the fighting in Korea. Why haven't the other U.N. countries helped more?

In proportion to their populations, a number of U.N. nations besides the U.S. have provided air, naval and ground forces in Korea. It is true we were in Korea under a mandate from the U.N. and we had more troops in Japan and Korea than any other nation, so the brunt of it fell on us, but we cannot fairly say that other nations haven't made a substantial contribution. The casualties, in fact, have been as great among some other nations, in proportion to the numbers, as our own.

We must remember that some other nations have heavy commitments in other parts of the world where their troops are stationed. Some are even engaged in fighting. Many of these nations were battlegrounds for the last war, with the result that their resources are greatly impaired and they have had to rebuild factories, houses and even the land. From a material standpoint, it is much harder for these countries to make great sacrifices than a land like our own, which has never been invaded or bombed.

< Previous Column 1951 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1951

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

McCall's, volume 78, May 1951

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052