The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition
If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt
I read recently that many successful businessmen read only three or four books a year. Could you give me a rough idea of how this compares with the number of books your husband read a year? I've also wondered what kind of books he enjoyed most.
My husband read a great many books. He read very fast, and I sometimes suspected that he did some skipping, though I never was able to catch him having overlooked anything in a book I had read very carefully and rather slowly.
I have no idea of the number of books he actually read in a year, and I don't think he kept count. History and biography were his favorites. He read a great deal of American history and everything on the American Navy which he could find, as well as travel books, and like so many busy men he loved to put himself to sleep at night with a detective story. We used to have difficulty finding new ones for him.
In a recent column you defended your right to shake hands with Mr. Vishinsky and Senator McCarthy, although you disagree strongly with both men. Would you also have felt it was right to shake hands with Adolf Hitler?
In Adolf Hitler's early days I might have considered it, but after he had begun his mass killings I don't think I could have borne it, and I would certainly have tried not to be anywhere near him.
With all this fuss about whether we could or couldn't have had the hydrogen bomb a few years earlier I'd like to ask you, Mrs. Roosevelt, what would we have done with it if we'd had it?
I don't think we would have done any more than we have done. So far we have tried to emphasize that this bomb can do more to make people realize that war is now unthinkable because the destruction would be so complete. If we used this bomb in any way I think the peoples of the world would be positive that we had used our power in a wrong instead of a right way.
What is your opinion of schools that refuse to hire teachers over 45?
Young people are often preferred, but I would feel that a proper proportion of older people was a good balance in any school.
Mr. Martin Dies said in a recent issue of U.S. News and World Report that you asked him to help you get your friend Joseph Lash into Naval Intelligence even after he had perjured himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Is this true?
In the first place, Mr. Lash did not perjure himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the records will show that this is true. In the second place, I had no idea at that time that there was any question of Mr. Lash's getting into Naval Intelligence. I did think that he, like many other young men who were college-bred, was material for officers' training, and I knew that he must have clearance from Mr. Dies's Committee before he could be considered. I did want to know just what Mr. Dies thought, therefore, but I never asked him for any specific help to get Mr. Lash into any specific place. Incidentally, I never asked anything specific for anybody else, beyond the mere fact that they might be interviewed and their qualifications considered by those whose business it was to consider them.
Is it your impression that Clement Attlee and other British visitors to Russia have been somewhat taken in by Soviet propaganda?
I should very much doubt it. Clement Attlee is an old Socialist and the Socialists have known all the Soviet tricks for many years.
I saw a picture of you in McCall's recently doing your "marketing." Would you tell me where you market and how often?
In New York City I frequently go to the grocery store on the corner of my block, where I buy most of the things. When I do not go my cook goes or telephones, but I enjoy going myself. In the country I sometimes go to a super market in Poughkeepsie, or to the fruit and vegetable stands which are open along the road. When I have a large family in the summer I buy a good deal wholesale, and I always put things in my home freezer.
I am only guessing, but it seems to me from things you have said in the past that you would be happier if your sons were not in politics. Am I right?
No. I have just said that I feel as my husband felt, that young people must be left to do what they themselves want to do, and I want for my children the feeling of satisfaction that they can only get from doing good work which they enjoy, fulfilling their obligations as citizens in the way that suits them best.
I know you do not use a ghost writer, but your book, India and the Awakening East, is written is such a totally different style from your other books that I was wondering whether you had some special assistance in writing it.
Yes. I never use a ghost writer, but much research for India and the Awakening East was done by one of Harper and Brothers' very talented young writers, Miss Marguerite Hoyle, and also she went over my manuscript and rewrote a number of things that she thought should be improved.
About this document
If You Ask Me, January 1955
McCall's, volume 82, January 1955
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Digital edition published 2014-2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
312 Academic Building
2100 Foxhall Road, NW
Washington, DC 20007