If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1953


For the fourth time the American Institute of Public Opinion's annual admiration "derby" was won by you, Mrs. Roosevelt. I'd like your honest opinion. What do you think is the reason for this popularity?

I did not know the American Institute of Public Opinion's annual admiration "derby" was won by me. But I am afraid that I bask in reflected glory. It was probably won because of the abiding love and admiration for my husband. He was able to do many things for many people during his lifetime, and in this particular case they have not had time to forget; so that when my nomination comes up I rejoice in the kind feelings he left behind. In addition, I have tried to go on with some of the work which he began. In the U.S., I think, there is always recognition of a genuine effort to continue doing something useful.


Would you favor a law forbidding billboard advertising on public highways, the way they have in England?

Yes, I think it would add immeasurably to the beauty of our highways, and even occasionally to their safety.


Do you think we should continue to admit former Nazi sympathizers like musician Walter Gieseking and singer Kirsten Flagstad to this country?

I can't say I think we should bar artists from this country today, no matter what their political backgrounds may have been. Flagstad is not going to sing about Nazism; neither is Mr. Gieseking going to do anything with his music that would taint it with Nazism. To bar artists because of beliefs they have held in the past, or even hold in the present, seems to me a loss to the artistic world—which is, of course, rarely a very political world.


Would you mind giving me your definition of a mature person?

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.


How are your visits with the heads of foreign countries arranged when you're traveling unofficially? Do you write and ask to see them, or do you wait to be invited?

Visits with heads of foreign countries or with officials in foreign countries are arranged in many ways. Before my latest trip abroad, for example, I myself asked the representative of Yugoslavia to the U.N. whether I might have an interview with Marshal Tito, since one of the magazines here was interested in publishing such an interview. In response Marshal Tito invited me to be his guest under the most liberal circumstances, asking only that before leaving Yugoslavia I tell him my impressions.

As a writer, when I have an opportunity to write something I don't hesitate to ask an official for an interview. If, however, I have a personal relationship already established over the years with heads of governments, I may simply write and say that I will be in their country at a certain time and, if it is entirely convenient, I would be glad to call and pay my respects. But this would be entirely on a personal basis and completely unofficial.


Outside of New York what is your favorite big city in the United States?

San Francisco.


Why didn't your husband do something about ending racial discrimination in Washington?

My husband did a good deal about ending racial discrimination, and he never interfered with anything I wanted to do about it. He realized, and he made me realize, that when one is President of the U.S. there are always some overriding factors that require consideration. He was always very honest with the Negro leaders in talking the situation over and telling them how far he could go and what he could and could not do.


What, if anything, do you believe the Americans and Russians have in common?

Many things. They are all human beings, and all human beings love and hate, are hungry or satisfied, tired or rested, ill or well, and all human beings have the same desire to live in peace, to have just and fair government which allows them to develop to the best of their ability. The differences come in the circumstances which surround human beings, and that is immediately where you come to the differences between the Americans and Russians.


Some people think a course in Communism should be taught in our schools. How do you feel about this?

I think it would be extremely helpful to young people to understand the basis of Communism, the Party line and the Party tactics.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1953

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

McCall's, volume 81, October 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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