If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1954


What do you think should be done with American prisoners of war who have come home converted to Communism?

Expose them to as much freedom and democracy as it is possible for them to encounter in the community in which they live, and try to give them proof that they have been made to believe lies.


I would like to know what answer you made to the Indian students who asked you what constituted an un-American activity?

I said that anything which was harmful to the U.S. was an un-American activity.


In some public schools they are making it compulsory for children to learn a foreign language in the early grades. How do you feel about this?

I am delighted to hear that this is being done. The earlier children learn a foreign language the easier it is. In the earlier years children learn almost everything by memory and by ear, and not by reasoning. Arithmetic, which calls for reasoning, is difficult for small children. Languages, if learned while children are young, are learned largely by ear, and not by grammar, and children get an accent better and find the language easier than if they wait until they are older. It is most important for our young people to learn languages now, since they are likely to work and be in countries all over the world. Making friends in foreign countries is easier if you know the language of the people you are with.


Did you once say that even Nazi countries should be admitted to the U.N.? What do you mean by this?

I do not think I ever said that Nazi countries should be admitted to the U.N. As I remember it, what I said was that I felt Italy, Germany and Japan as well—all our former enemies—should one day be admitted to the U.N. Because I believe that in the future we should try to have within the U.N. all nations.


Are you aware that the guards in your former home at Hyde Park are incredibly rude to tourists? When I was there recently we were ordered about like a herd of cattle. And when some children asked for pamphlets the guard said in my hearing, "What do they want one for? They can't read, and probably their parents can't either."

I cannot understand your criticism of the guards at Hyde Park. It may, however, have been a day with tremendous crowds, and some of the guards may have become weary, but as a rule they follow out their training and are most courteous to everyone. I have always heard many reports of their courtesy and kindness, and I have never heard a criticism such as yours. I must state, however, that even if this were true there is absolutely nothing I could do about it, because neither my family nor I have anything to do with the running of the estate. It belongs to the government, and the National Park Service is exclusively responsible for the guards.


How do you feel about some of the Republican Senators' proposals to drop the atom bomb if our negotiations do not achieve peace in the Far East?

I have very little hope that dropping the atom bomb will achieve peace, and I am afraid it would bring us the dislike of other nations and create a fear which would not be beneficial to peaceful relations.


I have to make a speech at school about the meaning of the flag, and I would like to know what the flag means to you.

The flag symbolizes for me the nation which we all love. When we pledge allegiance to the flag we pledge allegiance not only to our country but to the freedoms and principles which have built this nation.


Why do you have so many pictures taken of yourself?

I haven't gone to a studio and had a photograph taken of myself for many years, but, unfortunately, I have no control over the Press Photographers Association.


Could you tell me how your uncle Theodore Roosevelt got rid of his asthma? I have tried all kinds of medicine for fifteen years without results.

He outgrew it, I always understood.


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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1954

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

McCall's, volume 81, January 1954

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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Washington, DC