If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1953


As a Republican who respects your opinion I am writing to ask you if you don't really think Eisenhower has done a good job as President so far?

It is very difficult to say, because one does not know yet exactly where the President will eventually stand. Some of the trends of this administration—for instance, the trend to return to private ownership everything in the way of national resources, so that the government has no check on the conservation or distribution of these resources—seem to me to be dangerous trends. The President's attitude on Senator McCarthy also seems to me not yet sufficiently clear. But, as I said, it is too early to form any clear estimate.


Will you please tell me and the other children in the sixth grade who you think were the five greatest people in the world? I mean who contributed most to the world.

Christ, Confucius, Mohammed, Buddha and Plato. Any list of this kind is of necessity very poor, because I have not defined "greatness." Greatness lies in many different fields, and the contribution of people to the world is made in a great variety of fields, but these are the men who spiritually have led us in the past and probably shaped much of the thinking of the world.


You have worked closely with Soviet delegates to the U.N. Do you think the Russians now—or ever—have made a genuine peace offer?

That is extremely difficult to tell. It may be that from their point of view the offers are genuine. They do not seem genuine to us because the Russians have never been willing to accept safeguards which we consider essential, or to permit an international commission to see whether their promises will be carried out.


You remarked in your column recently that the "work as usual" way Governor Dewey spent his birthday didn't seem a very happy way of celebrating the occasion. I thought your husband was a "work as usual" man on his birthday too. Am I wrong?

My husband always had to work during the day on his birthday because he was always engaged in work that could not be laid aside, but his birthday was a day of much celebration. There was family celebration in the morning before going to work, and every year we had a particular group of friends who celebrated with him at dinner and in the evening.


Was your husband a regular churchgoer?

My husband was senior warden in our church at Hyde Park when he died. He went to church as often as it was possible for him to do so. It was extremely difficult for him to do this regularly in the last years of his life, and therefore I could not say that he was a regular churchgoer, but he performed his duties as senior warden and was extremely interested always in the church.


Isn't there any way a man in public office could be forced to have a psychiatric examination when his lies and vilifications of others are obviously psychopathic?

Who is to judge whether a man is psychopathic or not? If you do not happen to like things he says about others and you call them lies, others may think they are truthful. He may think so himself. It is very difficult to prove anyone psychopathic, and I hardly think we can take everybody who differs with us in our estimate of ourselves or of others and have them examined by a psychiatrist.


Do retired Presidents, like Mr. Hoover and Mr. Truman, get a pension? And do you know approximately how much this is?

No, they get no pension.


What single accomplishment in your life are you proudest of?

I never thought of being proud of anything. As I look back I think the thing that gave me the greatest satisfaction was finally learning to swim. I was so afraid of the water that conquering that fear was a great satisfaction.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1953

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

McCall's, volume 80, August 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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