If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1955

 

How can you or any other decent Democrat tolerate some of the tasteless statements of the present chairman of the Democratic National Committee? I am thinking particularly of the remarks he made about Mrs. Eisenhower's health.

I don't think that the Democratic National Committee Chairman had any intention of making either a disagreeable or tasteless remark. I think he meant that the President would be influenced in making his decision to run again by consideration for his wife's health. Mrs. Eisenhower apparently is not very strong. Neither was Mrs. Truman, but I don't think it is either tasteless or wrong to mention this, though some people seem to have taken offense.

I wonder if you remember some of the things said by the opposition during my husband's administration and President Truman's administration? They were perhaps more harmful than the suggestion that the President's wife is not very strong.

 

With five children you must always have been planning a birthday party or recovering from the last one. Would you tell me something about the kinds of parties you used to give for them? I'd love to know.

I do not think I have ever had to recover from a birthday party! I always enjoyed them as much as the children. We usually asked our children to invite their friends to a simple supper of cereal, bread and butter, ice cream, cake and milk. As they grew older it would be chicken, vegetables, ice cream, cake and milk. We would have some kind of entertainment, such as a Punch-and-Judy show, or a trick man, or they would play games for prizes. In the country we organized treasure hunts. I always loved the parties.

 

Why do you bother to answer nosy personal questions in your column? Couldn't you just make it a rule that you would only answer questions on world affairs?

If I did not answer such questions it would make my column much less interesting for a great many people who seem genuinely to want to know about certain personal things. I have a right not to answer some questions that seem malicious or too personal, but I try to answer if I think someone is simply curious.

 

I have been reading the lives of some of the early political figures in this country and am amazed at the culture and scholarship these men possessed. Compared to them most of our congressmen today seem like shallow illiterates. I would like your frank answer. Can you name five really cultured men in the present U.S. House or Senate?

I think your criticism is rather unjust. The names that stand out in our country's early history do so perhaps because there were only a handful of men over here in those days and the best of them were in the government. While we do have men in public office who are neither cultured nor scholarly, we have a great many congressmen, I think, who possess both these qualities. Offhand, I should say that Herbert Lehman, Senator Aiken and Speaker Rayburn are all well-educated, scholarly men. Former President Truman is a great student of American history, and one could find many more examples.

 

I'm told that the Constitution of the Soviet Union greatly resembles the American Constitution. Have you ever read the former, and do you think there's anything to this statement?

I have never read the Soviet Constitution, but I should not be surprised if it had been modeled on the American Constitution. That makes very little difference, however, for what matters is how it is interpreted and lived up to. I think if we compared the development of the people under our Constitution and under the Soviet one, we would find great differences.

 

Having just read another nasty editorial about you by Westbrook Pegler in our Florida newspaper, I am wondering whatever set that man off against you in the first place. Can you recall when or how his attacks began?

No, though I remember he printed a disagreeable column once just after he'd come to a picnic at Hyde Park. Apparently he did not enjoy the picnic, although at the time he even borrowed a typewriter to do his column. I also recall that he lunched with me in the White House and seemed very pleasant, but that too may have been something he disliked. I imagine, however, that his dislike of me is not so much an individual matter as dislike of the Franklin Roosevelts generally.

 

Two questions: What that has happened in the past ten years do you think your husband would have been sorriest to miss? And what do you think would have made him happiest?

I think the discovery of the Salk vaccine would have made my husband very happy, but I find it hard to name any one particular event which he would have been sorriest to miss.

 

Are you or your family planning to get Salk vaccinations?

I am sure that as soon as possible all of my grandchildren will have these shots. I do not plan to have them myself, as I am much too old.

 

Even though you were very young at the time, I am curious to know whether you ever saw Queen Victoria?

No. I never saw Queen Victoria alive, but I did see her funeral procession.

 

I once heard somebody say that his least favorite word in the language was "exclusive." Do you have a least favorite word or a most favorite?

No, I can't say that I have any particular aversion to any word. Some words describe qualities which one dislikes; but it is not the word, it is the meaning that makes you dislike it. I think a "snob," either intellectually or socially, is one of the most disagreeable of people, so I dislike the word. I prefer to think of the beautiful words, and there are many in our language. I like such words as "radiant," "glowing," "valiant" and "courageous."

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1955

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

McCall's, volume 82, August 1955

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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