If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1953


What can a person do who is unjustly accused of being a Communist and has not enough money to hire legal counsel to defend himself?

Go before whatever tribunal accuses him, tell the truth and only the truth.


Why aren't you on a regular radio or TV program any more? We used to listen to all your programs, and now we can never find any.

I am glad to know that you listened to my programs and would still like to have me on TV and radio. I would like to go back if possible but I did so much traveling in the last year it was not possible for me to give the necessary time. I am not sure how much time I will have in the coming year, nor am I sure any advertiser will feel like sponsoring a program on which I appear. There are people who dislike me wholeheartedly as well as people who like me, and for a sponsored program perhaps a noncontroversial figure is best.


There's so much discussion about whether a person with a fatal illness should know the truth about it. Will you tell me honestly how much you think you would change your life if you knew you were going to die in a few months?

I hope I would not change at all, because most of us know we cannot count on when death may come. Personally I would like to know if I were the victim of a fatal disease because there are always little things we could put in better order if we knew the end to this life was coming at a given time. However, there are people who would be so badly affected if they knew that I do believe a doctor has to exercise some judgment regarding the person.


We have four boys and one girl, like your family. I would like to know how you kept your boys from excluding their sister and making her feel inferior because she was a girl.

In our family the girl was the eldest. Her next brother was ill for quite a long while as a baby, so she could lord it over him if she chose. In fact, for a good many years she was better at sports and games than he was. The boys never excluded her, because she led them, and at times I almost thought I had another boy!

I do not, of course, know where your little girl fits into the family as far as age goes, but if her brothers make her feel inferior I would keep telling her what a wonderful thing it is to be a girl. You can have equal rights with men if you are worthy of them


I am in the sixth grade. What can I do to make the world more peaceful?

You can learn to live harmoniously with people of your own age even though they might be of different races and different religions. If you do that you will be preparing your generation to live better and more peacefully in the world as a whole.


We gave our daughter two precious family heirlooms as wedding gifts. I learned recently that she sold one of them (a desk that had been in the family 150 years) so she could buy modern furniture. Isn't this an outrage, Mrs. Roosevelt? What can the older generation do?

My dear lady, perhaps your daughter did not really want those two precious family heirlooms as wedding gifts. You and I may treasure old things because they have been in the family for a long time, but some of the younger people have no interest or sentiment about these old possessions. I don't feel you should be quite so outraged, since perhaps you should have realized that your daughter did not really have a taste for old things. She has a right to her taste and things, after all, are less important than the happiness of people.


We have neighbors whose son returned from Korea a double-amputee. Before he went to war we just exchanged casual "hellos." Now when I see him and his mother I don't know what to say to them. My feelings are so strong about his sacrifice, but words just don't come

I can quite understand how difficult it is for you to make openings to talk with your neighbors when such a great sacrifice has been made by this young man. If I were you I would try to be perfectly matter of fact, go on just as though nothing had happened. Both the boy and his mother want to resume life in a normal way. Before long he will probably have to go to a hospital to have artificial legs fitted. When that happens there will be plenty to talk about, because trying to learn to use them is very uncomfortable at first. But, whatever you do, remember he is still a boy, liking things he has always liked, having many of the same feelings that he had before. If you establish a normal, natural relationship with both the boy and his mother you will find soon you will be talking about everything with great ease, and even sometimes forgetting the tragedy.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1953

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

McCall's, volume 80, April 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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