If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1953


Do you ever regret that New York City was picked as the site for the United Nations? If I were representing another big power I think I’d resent it very much.

No, I have never regretted that New York City was picked as the site of the U.N. The New World was chosen for the site by a majority U.N. vote because it was felt to be freer of the jealousies and traditional methods of doing things than the Old World. New York City seemed especially suitable because of its reference libraries and museums. Also, although the U.N. is here, special U.N. agencies have headquarters in Paris, Rome and Geneva.


Has anything ever happened to you which made you believe in miracles? If so, would you mind telling me about it?

No, I am afraid nothing has happened to me which made me believe in miracles.


From the things I read and hear about teen-agers today they sound like a crazy, irresponsible, insolent bunch. Some people insist adolescents always act this way, but I don’t remember being that bad, do you?

I am afraid I cannot join the chorus that finds young people today crazy, irresponsible or insolent. I have nineteen grandchildren, and a number of them are in the teen-age bracket. They sometimes do things that show poor judgment, but the young people about me on the whole have good manners, are thoughtful of others and carry their responsibilities with remarkable efficiency.

I have always regretted that in my own teen-age I had so much responsibility that I never knew what it was to be carefree. It is in those years that one acquires a real joie de vivre, and it is a pity to miss out on it.


Do you believe that any government or religious agency should have the right to censor movies?

I happen not to like the idea of censorship, except such censorship as the people exercise when they ignore something, and personally I feel in the long run we would be better off if we relied on the industries themselves and the public to do the necessary censoring.


We have had a scandal in our family involving our oldest daughter. It takes all my strength now just to face my neighbors. How do people in public life, like yourself, keep your balance and courage with all the gossiping and backbiting that goes on about you and your families?

I suppose people in public life are so accustomed to gossip they become rather indifferent, because they have to survive so much that is untrue. In your case—if you fully understand what happened, and if you feel that there are reasons which explain human frailties, and if you do not yourself feel bitterly toward your daughter but love her and want to help her through what is probably for her a bitter and difficult experience—I would feel, as I have always felt, that gossip and backbiting are matters of utter indifference. There is only one important thing, and that is to help a human being through whatever experience or mistake he or she has made to become a stronger and better person in the future.

If your friends do not help, then they are not real friends, so what difference does it make what they say or how they feel?


At 55 I am so worn out from working all my life that I can no longer hold a job, and yet I am obliged to wait until I am 65 before receiving Social Security. Do you think this is fair?

I imagine the criterion for receiving Social Security should be changed and instead of at a certain age it should be paid on a basis of medical examination. Sixty-five is set simply as the mean age when people begin to be incapable of working.


Do you think that atom spies should get the death penalty?

It happens that I do not like the death sentence, but as long as we have the death sentence I imagine it is necessary to apply to any spies the maximum punishment.


How old do you think a child should be before he gets a dog of his own?

A child should not have a dog of his own until he or she is able to take care of it, dependable enough to attend to the dog’s wants daily without being told and has enough common sense not to hurt the dog or be unkind to it out of thoughtlessness.


Do you ever get a longing to settle down, or does the thought of retiring from public life frighten you?

No, the thought of retiring from public life does not frighten me at all. I shall go on doing things as long as they turn up to be done and as long as I am well and strong enough to do them. When the day comes when I am not able to do them or they do not turn up I shall be just as happy and probably just as busy doing other things.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1953

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

McCall's, volume 80, February 1953

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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