If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1954

 

Adlai Stevenson's son John says his father doesn't want to run for President in '56. You know Mr. Stevenson. Have you heard him express this feeling?

I have heard Mr. Stevenson say that if anyone else would unite the party better he would not want to stand in the way, which is a commendable attitude, but I think he has come to feel that he does want to be a candidate for the Presidency if he feels he has a united party behind him.

 

I have read many accounts of the events which took place in Washington on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but I have never heard what happened in the White House that day. Could you tell us what happened when you and the President heard the news?

My husband lunched upstairs in his study that day. We heard the news as we came out of the dining room downstairs, and when I reached the second floor I found that the President had already been informed. He was closeted almost immediately with state and military men, and the upstairs hall was lined with officials far into the night. The rest of us listened to the radio and tried to carry on our business. When I finally got to see my husband I found that, with all the shock and horror he felt, there was also that curious calm that comes to all of us when we know that something inevitable has to be faced and endured.

 

I do not know where to find any truth today in the newspapers. Every columnist has his own "slant," his own little ax to grind. Tell me, please, what columnist you find most reliable and I will read him.

I am afraid I like to read a number of columnists. I find the Alsops, Walter Lippmann, Roscoe Drummond and Thomas Stokes the most reliable and stimulating. I thought Anne O'Hare McCormick as long as she lived was one of the most interesting and lately I have enjoyed James Reston's columns, which actually seem more like individual articles than columns.

 

We have been transferred to a part of the country where people do not share our "liberal" ideas about minority groups. Our child is actually being ostracized because of our mildly stated views. Do you think we should keep silent over crucial questions in order to be accepted socially, or speak up and suffer?

It depends very much, of course, on what part of the country you are in. If you live in a place where certain things are old tradition and you are a newcomer from another area, I think it is wise only to state your views when actually asked for them. If you are placed in this position it would be cowardly not to say what you think, but I would try to say it as unantagonistically as possible. Changes are coming in the world, no matter how much some people would rather not have them, but it is better that they are carried through by the people of the area and not by newcomers. I don't think I would volunteer anything about beliefs not held by my neighbors.

 

I am decorating a "Roosevelt room" in my house and have only one question. I want to select as the flower motif for the woodwork and wallpaper President Roosevelt's favorite flower. What was it?

My husband liked almost all flowers, but perhaps roses were his favorites. At least it was in the rose garden at Hyde Park that he wanted to be buried, which would indicate that he had always particularly liked that part of the garden.

 

Do you agree with Dr. Fredric Wertham, the psychiatrist, who says comic books are contributing to the delinquency of modern youth?

There are comic books and comic books. Some may have a bad effect because they deal with violence and crime, but I doubt whether they are a major factor in juvenile delinquency, though they may be one of the many contributing factors.

 

The English gave up the Suez Canal. How would you feel about the United States giving up the Panama Canal?

I have always thought the day might come when the Panama Canal and, in fact, all passageways to which all nations should have access would be placed under U.N. jurisdiction and be internationalized.

 

How can you explain that such a good friend of your family as Averell Harriman would run against your son for governor of New York?

Everyone who wants public office has a right to try to obtain it. It is not a question of friendship. A man may feel that he is better fitted than another, and if he does he has an obligation to find out whether those who have the final say in a nomination agree with him or not. In the end the voters decide, and if they do not like the nominee of their party they stay away from the polls or vote another ticket.

 

You once said you wouldn't sue Westbrook Pegler because you couldn't prove he had caused you financial damage. Why don't you sue him anyway? I think a fair court should award you "punitive" damages, just the way it did Quentin Reynolds.

I should dislike going into court unless absolutely forced to do so, and to go to court because of Mr. Pegler's babblings would seem to me a waste of time and a very un-Christian attitude. The poor man needs to be able to say disagreeable things. What else can he write about now?

I was glad Mr. Quentin Reynolds proved his case, because he could really have been injured in tangible ways. The intangible ways people are hurt can never be compensated for in any case.

 

Don't you think the wife of the President of the United States should have a dress allowance, since her position makes it necessary for her to spend so much more for clothes than she ordinarily would?

I hardly think the clothes a President's wife wears are a legitimate government expense. If you begin with the President's wife you will have to grant the same allowance to a great many other government officials' wives, and it would be hard to decide where to stop. The wives of all officials have to spend more on clothes than they would in private life, but this is part of the business service which they render to their husbands' positions.

 

What ever happened to the project your son Elliott started for selling Christmas trees from Hyde Park?

During the war no new trees were planted. Therefore, there came a time when the supply was running out. Elliott planted a few new ones, but when he decided to live in Colorado and sell the land here there was no possibility of continuing the trees.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1954

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

McCall's, volume 82, December 1954

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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