If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1956


Did the President have some favorite piece of music that you could suggest we play in our school orchestra at a memorial service we're planning for F.D.R.?

He was fond of "Anchors Aweigh" and of "Ancient of Days."


There is a theory today, I understand, that it is not good to name a boy after his father. Do you see any reason for this theory? Are any of your grandchildren named after their fathers?

No, I see no reason. Two of my own children, one of whom died very young, were named after their father, and many of my grandchildren have been named after their fathers.


What standards do you use to judge a man's character when you know he doesn't believe in God?

I doubt that anyone does not really believe in God. People may think they don't have any belief, but you will usually find that somewhere down in a human being's soul there is a belief in something beyond himself. In any case, I would not judge a man's character by his belief or unbelief. I would judge his character by his deeds; and no matter what he said about his beliefs, his behavior would soon show whether he was a man of good character or bad.


Were you invited to Margaret Truman's wedding?

Certainly not. I am not a member of the family nor a close friend, but I think the wedding was all arranged with so much taste and simplicity, and it just suited her own charming personality and her mother's and father's good sense.


Do you think 67 is too old for someone to get psychoanalyzed?

I don't suppose one is ever too old for anything, but if at 67 you have not learned to know yourself, it is a little hard for me to believe that anyone else can help you to do so. I would certainly advise you to do it, however, if you really feel it will help.


What do you consider the most depressing place you ever visited?

Probably the Palestinian refugee camps in the Near East, and then next to these the camps of refugees in Germany after World War II.


Have you any suggestions to make as to how a girl traveling in Europe by herself can keep from being lonely?

Just not to travel by herself! If I were a girl, I would join a group like the Experiments in International Living or a group of students. I would not try to travel alone in Europe.


My ambition when I grow up is to go into politics and later on be President, and I'd like to know the requirements to be a good President?

I really cannot tell you because to be a good President you have to be a great many other things first. Perhaps it is best first to try to be a good man and later find out whether you can be a leader of men. If you can become a leader of men, then inevitably, I imagine, you will go into politics, and where you arrive in the long run will be partly a matter of character and partly luck or the will of God.


Is it true that you are related to newspaper columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop?

Yes. Their mother is my first cousin.


As a Negro sincerely interested in the improvement of my race, I wonder, Mrs. Roosevelt, what we can do to make Southerners accept us more willingly than they do now. What are we doing wrong?

I don't think you are doing anything wrong. I think you have shown remarkable patience, and I think if you will devote yourselves to raising your own standard of living as rapidly as possible you will find that some of your difficulties, even in the South, will fade away.


In a recent issue of McCall's you said that "the only good reason" for the U.N. admitting Fascist Spain is that "the Pentagon wants to be friendly with Spain." Since when have "Pentagon" and "U.N." been synonymous?

I am deeply distressed if I said anything of this kind. What I meant, of course, was the chief reason the U.S. was willing to see Spain admitted to the U.N. was because the Pentagon wants to be friendly with Spain.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1956

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

McCall's, volume 83, August 1956

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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