If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1954


How much truth is there in your husband's secretary William Hassett's statement that Madame Chiang Kai-shek was "…arrogant and overbearing—the most ill-bred woman sheltered within the White House walls in many a day"?

I think none at all. Mr. Hassett's impression was very much exaggerated, perhaps because of the difficult nature of his job. Anyone who is responsible for keeping engagements with the President and his guests has a hard time. As far as I was concerned, and I know as far as my two secretaries, Mrs. Helm and Miss Thompson, were concerned, we felt both Madame Chiang's charm and her kindness.


We read the daily papers, and we never heard of two of the men you described recently in McCall's as great spiritual leaders in the Christian world today. Can it be you have never heard of Bishop Sheen or Archbishop Cushing?

Yes, I have heard of both Bishop Sheen and Archbishop Cushing. I consider the Pope a great spiritual leader, and I mentioned him in my list, though I think he has had predecessors who have been even greater.


Almost every royal visitor to the United States seems to spend some time with you at Hyde Park. Do you initiate most of these visits or do they?

They do, though I am always very pleased to make them welcome, particularly where I have known them in the past and received hospitality from them.


How did you and your husband happen to pick St. Patrick's Day for your wedding?

We picked it because that was the day when my uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, who was to give me away, was going to be in New York for the St. Patrick's Day parade. Since the President of the United States is a very busy person, he could not be expected to come another day for a private engagement with the family.


Would you mind telling us your opinion of all those spies hiding behind the Fifth Amendment?

I personally would not invoke the Fifth Amendment, but I certainly do not think that everyone who takes advantage of it is a spy.


Just when our college-age children are our biggest expense they are no longer deductible from our income tax. Wouldn't it be fairer to make the age of deductible dependents 21 rather than 18?

I think it should be done on the basis of their being actually in school. Some are through school at 21, but many do not finish until 22, and many who are going to medical school or studying for other professions have to train for longer periods. Therefore I think the criterion should be not age but the length of time young people are really dependent on their parents. There should also be some consideration for handicapped children who are always dependent on their families.


Will you tell me briefly what your husband's religious philosophy was?

The very simple Protestant Episcopal ritual on his father's side, tempered by the Unitarian beliefs of his mother's family, made my husband liberal and simply religious. Both his parents believed that religion must be part of daily life and daily education.


Do you think there's any good reason the Queen of England should not receive her uncle's wife, the Duchess of Windsor?

This seems to be a question which only the Queen of England could answer.


Is there any newspaper in this country that you feel represents the ideals of the Democratic party?

The little Democratic Digest probably does, but I don't happen to know of any newspaper which is completely Democratic.


I've heard so many versions of the events leading to the break between President Roosevelt and James A. Farley that I wonder if you would tell me the true facts?

I don't know that I am able to tell you. I can only say that Mr. Farley decided he did not approve of a third term, and as far as I know that started the break between them. I suppose it had been coming for some time, and there must have been other small or large contributing factors.


The Communists tell people all over the world that we mistreat the Negroes. Why don't we send an outstanding American Negro on an unofficial good-will tour around the world giving straightforward answers to questions on how we treat this race?

This has already been done. On the Town Hall World Trip both Walter White and Mrs. Edith Sampson did just this and Dr. Channing Tobias and other fine Negroes have told other areas of the world of the progress that is being made in this country.


Do you ever get together with the Trumans when they're in New York, or aren't you particularly friendly?

I do not happen to have had an opportunity to get together with them since they left Washington, but I have invited them to come to Hyde Park, and I have invited Margaret on one or two occasions, but each time they were busy. We have completely friendly relations. I hope in the future we shall have an opportunity for more frequent contacts.


I am planning to be a private secretary, and it would interest me a lot to know what were the qualifications that made you choose your new secretary from among other applicants.

I have never chosen a secretary. Miss Malvina Thompson chose my present secretaries several years before she died. The secretary I have at the American Association for the U.N. was chosen for me by the director.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1954

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

McCall's, volume 81, March 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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