If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1953


After the unpleasant experiences you have had in Japan and India, why don’t you take a bodyguard on your trips around the world?

I had no unpleasant experiences in either Japan or India. The newspapers made a great deal of a foolish little demonstration of a few Communist Japanese women led by a fanatic. All they did was to shout, “Go home, Americans, we want peace,” and I said, “So do we, but not at the price of slavery under Communism.” Words did me no harm, and that was all that I encountered. No one touched me. A bodyguard would be a horrible nuisance and utterly useless, besides adding to the expense.


I would be grateful to know how you conquered your fear of learning to swim, as I myself have terrible fears about it.

I had to teach my two youngest boys to swim, since their father was ill, so I took a course at the Y.W.C.A. and just made myself put my head under the water.


When you talk to a strange person on the street in a foreign city, do you first introduce yourself as Mrs. Roosevelt or do you just pretend to be an average American tourist asking for information?

I never introduce myself. In fact, I try hard not to have people recognize me or to “pretend” to be an average American tourist, which, of course, is what I am.


In your opinion are the Yugoslavian people atheists?

No. There are 120 mosques in Sarajevo alone, and any number of Catholic churches and a few Protestant churches, and people attend them in great numbers. This is true throughout the country, with varying religions being predominant in different places. Members of the Communist party are usually atheists, however, or are expected to be. As you know, Communist party members, even in Russia, are a very small portion of the population.


If most of the members of the American Youth Congress had refused to answer by invoking the Fifth Amendment when you questioned them about their Communist affiliations, would you have continued working with them?

They could not have invoked the Fifth Amendment in talking with me, because I had no authority to demand an answer from them. I was asking them simply to be honest with me, as a friend of young people. When their actions proved that certain leaders were under Communist domination and could hoodwink many of the followers I did refuse to work with them.


When and how did you first earn any money yourself?

My first regular salary was through teaching school for a few years, and then in writing and radio work and speaking.


Our minister says there are no truly great spiritual leaders in the Christian world today. Do you think this is true? If not, will you tell me whom you consider great spiritual leaders?

I think Albert Schweitzer is an outstanding spiritual leader in the Christian world. I cannot think of anyone else who can equal Phillips Brooks in our part of the country or Charles Wagner, for instance, in France. Perhaps there are people we just don’t hear a great deal about, but it seems to me if their field of influence was broad, even in their own localities, one would hear something about them. The Pope, of course, is the spiritual leader of his followers.


When, if ever, have you admitted that you’ve been wrong about something?

It seems to me I have to admit that every day. All of us are wrong about certain things, but we have to act on our convictions. If we are wrong we usually learn about it sooner or later.


Do you own a television set, or do you have a chance to look at TV much? I’m asking because I’d like to know your opinion of TV in general, and also if you have any special favorite program.

I only look at TV occasionally, when there is something on that I think is particularly interesting. TV is wonderful in showing sports and in bringing us historical events which we could not have brought to us in any other way. I have very little time to watch, though I do own a TV set and find many members of my family enjoy it at all hours.


Your husband was such a great collector of stamps and other things. I have been wondering whether you yourself make any collections and, if so, what they are.

I have always felt that no family could stand more than one collector.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1953

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

McCall's, volume 81, November 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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