If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1953


Do you think an avowed atheist should be allowed to teach in a university?

I think one's religion and beliefs, or lack of belief, is one's own concern. I do not think that one should impose these beliefs on one's students, but that is something for internal arrangement between the teacher and the head of the faculty, and certainly there should be no rule which bars anyone from teaching because of his religious beliefs or nonbelief.


Some people say that if the vicious things certain columnists say about you and your family weren't true you'd sue them. Will you please tell me why you have never sued?

To win a libel suit you have to prove that a person has injured your chance to earn a living, and as I can't prove that for my husband or myself I would get nothing out of it. Then too, lawyers are very expensive. I feel time will prove what these people say is untrue. My husband used to say that in the end truth always triumphs over falsehood, and I think that rather than concern myself with lies and half-truths and adverse opinions I will try to live as I think I should and let the future take care of itself.


I've been reading a very depressing book by Darwin's grandson, who says the human race will be wiped out in a million years. My husband says "So what?" I say if this is true what meaning do all our struggles have? Please tell me what you think about this.

I am afraid it does not worry me very much. If it is true that the human race will be wiped out in a million years our duty is to live our portion of that million years as well as we can and leave the future to God.


The President of the United States tells everyone to cooperate in every way with the U.N., and then the Board of Education in my city outlaws all UNESCO programs in the schools. Have you any idea what is behind this?

I should say that some people with little knowledge had succeeded in awakening fear in the people of your city. They have probably heard that UNESCO materials are dangerous in the schools, that they would teach your children that patriotism is wrong and they might even weaken their religious beliefs. This, of course, is not anywhere visible in the teaching material which UNESCO furnished to schools and teachers on a basis purely of their willingness to use it or not to use it.

If you analyze some of the people and groups against UNESCO you will find among them good, responsible people who have been fooled by propaganda of others who are not so responsible. You will also find many of the same people who worked for Bund groups or Fascist organizations in the past. Sometimes these groups are purely isolationist, sometimes they represent special interests of one kind or another. Education, I think, is the best weapon against such people.


Several of my female in-laws are unpredictably vulgar in their conversation and have caused me intense embarrassment. Am I justified in deciding to exclude them from future social gatherings at our home?

Wouldn't you hurt your wife's feelings by excluding her relatives from social gatherings? Perhaps you are a little too easily embarrassed. It might be better to pay no attention to remarks which you object to and try to guide the conversation along lines that are less objectionable.


Was there any special reason that your late husband always wore the full black cape rather than the conventional type of topcoat?

My husband had a great fondness for capes, and they were easier for him to manage, since he moved about with so much difficulty.


My dog died. I am so upset about this that I don't hear my mother when she talks to me and I can't do my homework. Can you tell me what to do?

You must be very young, and this is probably your first real sorrow. Time will help you to bear it, and I am sorry that the companionship with your dog had to come to an end, but you must remember that dogs' lives are always shorter than the lives of human beings. We ought to make their lives as happy as possible and be grateful for every moment of love and happiness that they give us, but at best it should not be tragic when the parting comes if we have done our part in giving them a happy time while they are on earth with us.


Why is Russian propaganda so much more effective abroad than U.S. propaganda?

We are very new at propaganda, and it is only fairly recently that we have felt the need to know much about the other peoples of the world. One does not learn what is effective in other countries overnight. I think the Soviets have been trying to persuade people to believe in Communism for a long time, and therefore their whole propaganda is better known and understood.


You're so much better-looking now than you used to be. Would you mind telling your secret to a woman nearing 60?

I haven't the faintest idea, and I did not know I was better-looking. I imagine the best prescription for all of us is to keep our interests alive and live as fully as we can.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1953

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

McCall's, volume 80, May 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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