If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1952


Our local paper has published several editorials stating that UNESCO is a Communist organization. Will you please tell me how much truth there is in this accusation?

Since the Soviets refuse to belong to UNESCO, it is difficult to see how it could be under their domination.

Isolationists who do not want international cooperation are inclined to call everything Communistic, and they use this label to harm all the efforts of the UN and its specialized agencies. I am quite sure that neither UNESCO nor any other UN agency at the present time has been taken over by Communists.


I almost go out of my mind at Christmas trying to think what to get my husband's 63-year-old mother. She has a huge family, and they have given her every present you could possibly name. Since I imagine your relatives must have the same problem with you, I'd love to know the kind of presents you like most and least.

Perhaps your mother-in-law, if she still has a large family coming and going in her home, would appreciate, as I always do, things that can be eaten—ham, smoked turkey, fruitcake, plum pudding, fruit, cheese, candy. All of these seem to give pleasure to large families, and so I am always glad to receive them. I also like a great many useful things for my house, and I should think that any older woman would need replenishment of certain household things which do wear out, such as house linen, scrap baskets, furniture, rugs and the like. I do not think any of us who are older like to add very much to our personal possessions, because we do not need as many as we used to need and we grow fond of the few things which we use more constantly.


My wife and I are going abroad this winter. She is crazy to visit Spain, but I just can't see it—spending American dollars in a Fascist country. We both put great stock in your opinion, Mrs. Roosevelt, and I wish you'd tell us frankly what you'd do in our position.

I think your wife may be wise in suggesting that you and she should see Spain. In view of the present controversy about whether the United States should give aid to Spain and have bases there, it might be well for you to see for yourself what conditions are in that country—whether the Spanish people are content with the present government or wish for a change, and whether or not they can be helped through their government or whether it should be done some other way.

There is much that is beautiful in art and architecture to see in Spain, and that is important too, but the decision of what the American people should feel about the government of Spain and the conditions now existing there is something worthy of study by every American citizen.


Westbrook Pegler poked fun at you recently for asking to see the "poor people" in an Indian village during your visit to the Middle East. Is this so funny? I don't get it.

I imagine Mr. Pegler was making fun of the fact that I was supposed to have asked to see "poor people" in an Indian village where the people are all poor. I do not know where he drew his information from nor exactly what I said, but it would perhaps have an element of amusement if one asked for something which was present all around one.


Did your husband ever mention anything physically peculiar about Stalin? I read in a magazine article recently that he has a withered arm.

I do not remember my husband ever mentioning anything about Mr. Stalin's physical appearance, and I would much doubt his having a withered arm.


I am a senior in high school. I have always heard that you are the smartest woman in the world. Since this is true, which I'm positive it is, what general advice would you give a boy 17 about life?

I am afraid I am very far from being "the smartest woman in the world," and I am not fond of giving general advice to anyone. I am sure that all one can say has been said so many times to a boy of seventeen by his teachers, his parents and his pastor. I will not tell you all the obvious things—that it is better to be honest and kind than to be dishonest and selfish—but I will tell you that if you face life with a spirit of adventure and with courage you will get more out of it than if you are timid and unimaginative.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1952

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

McCall's, volume 80, December 1952

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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