If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1956


As a visitor to the United States I would like to ask why your people are so afraid of "intellectuals." In Europe we welcome this quality in our leaders.

I do not think we are really, any of us, afraid of intellectuals in this country. That idea, it seems to me, has been more or less manufactured by certain politicians. We do not like pretentiousness, and when people try to show off their superior wisdom I think the average American is likely to be amused rather than admiring. Real knowledge and education are admired in this country as much as in any other country.


"The Democrats start all the new things and then the Republicans take them over," you said recently. Do you really think you could make a statement like that stand up if you take the history of the two parties from the beginning?

I was not thinking of taking the history of the two parties from the beginning. We have had many changes in both parties, and I suppose if I went back to the time when President Theodore Roosevelt was in office I would have to say that he had started a good many new things. However, I was speaking generally about the later years of which I myself have some close knowledge. Many things from my husband's administration are now accepted and incorporated into the present administration program. No one suggests doing away with Social Security or the Securities Agency, so I think I am correct in the statement though I did not go back to the very beginning of time!


Your son Franklin is supposed to have said he had never heard of the Dominican teacher De Galindez, who disappeared a few months ago. Then a magazine published a photograph of the two of them standing together at Hyde Park. Not trusting press reports on you or your children, Mrs. Roosevelt, I'd like to know if there isn't some other side to this story.

My son Franklin says he remembers only that a group of Spanish-speaking visitors at Hyde Park wanted to have pictures taken with him. As usual, and purely as an act of courtesy, he posed for photographs with these people—none of whom he had ever met before or since, nor did he know their names.


My husband and I are frankly appalled at the wishy-washy, conservative attitude our children and their friends take towards political problems. Do you think members of the younger generation today are more conservative in most things than their parents?

I think it almost always has been the case that when parents are liberal their children are conservative and vice versa. Also we are not far removed from the McCarthy days, and young people are inclined to be more fearful and cautious, I feel, than they might have been if we had not gone through the McCarthy period. I hope, however, we will again develop a greater freedom of spirit and expression.


I am most impressed by your ability to preserve a good digestion while continually attending banquets and other formal meals. How do you do this?

I have never given this much thought because I have been blessed by remarkably good digestion. I try to eat normally and I never have trouble.


My teen-age daughter, who is five feet ten, is getting a complex about her height. Could you give us some practical advice—anything you wish someone had told you about being tall when you were young?

Tell her to hold herself straight and not to allow herself to slump and bend over. It is difficult to be tall for your age when you are young, but while there are obvious disadvantages, you can also see over other people's heads in a crowd! If you hold yourself well, people will not think so much about your being tall, and the best thing to do is just to forget about your height and then others will forget about it too.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1956

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

McCall's, volume 83, September 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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