If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1957


I was truly touched by your quick defense of President Eisenhower on the question of King Saud, also on the subject of the President's vacations. It takes a big person to defend someone she disagrees with. Could you tell me how to develop the same fine spirit?

I don't think it takes an unusually fine spirit to be fair. I think most Americans like to be fair, and therefore when they feel that criticism gives an unfair picture of a situation they quite naturally speak up about it.


If you believe the President's salary should be tax-exempt because he is a "public servant," why shouldn't the salaries of other public servants be tax-free too?

I think other public servants probably should be tax-exempt, because as a rule the salaries of public servants are far below what they can earn on the outside and their service is to the public and not for themselves as individuals.


What did you mean, exactly, when you said recently in McCall's that Adam and Eve are symbolic of the first people on earth? The Bible states that Adam and Eve were the first people created by God in His own image. Do you disagree with the Bible?

Oh, no! But I am afraid that I don't think every word of the Old Testament was meant to be taken literally. What difference does it make whether two people named Adam and Eve were the first people or were simply symbolic of the first people God placed on the earth? Whether God developed them one way or another seems to me rather unimportant.


You didn't mention Governor Meyner of New Jersey as a possible Democratic Presidential nominee in 1960. Do you feel he is less well qualified for some reason than the men you did mention?

No, I certainly do not feel Governor Meyner is less qualified. I think he is extremely well qualified to be a candidate for the Presidency in 1960. I carefully stated that I was not mentioning all those I considered qualified. I think it is too early to make any decisions at the present time.


Do you feel the way our State Department does—that it is wrong for Britain to trade with Red China?

No. I think it is probably important for Britain to develop her trade in the Far East with Red China. Long ago Great Britain decided to recognize Red China and we did not, so it is perhaps logical that she should now decide to go the next step and perhaps it is also logical that we should differ. Britain, however, is the one to decide what is essential for her economy, not the United States.


Have you had any experience with the problem of a child running away from home, and could you tell me how you handled it?

No, I am glad to say I never have had any experience with the problem of a child running away from home.


Do you have a philosophy of life you could put into a few words?

I have never given very deep thought to a philosophy of life, though I have a few ideas that I think are useful to me. One is that you do whatever comes your way to do as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting. The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.


Who am I to trust and what am I to believe about the dangers of radioactive fallout from these atomic tests?

Scientists must differ. If they didn't rub up against one another's differing ideas, science probably would stand still. I think, however, that you will have to get a balance on what you read, then make your own decision about whether it is worth taking the risk on the fallout or not. From my point of view, it is not worth the risk. The risk of trying to reach an agreement with Russia about suspending these tests seems to me much more worth taking.


Have you ever listened to Billy Graham? I would like to know your opinion of his kind of religious teaching?

I have never listened to Billy Graham because I rarely have the time to listen to the radio or look at television. I have read much that he has said and it seems to me he is like many other revivalists that I have known in the past. I have no doubt that he is doing a great deal of good, though it happens that this kind of emotional religion does not have a great deal of appeal for me.


You always defend the younger generation and say they seem so stable and fine; but if this is true, how do you explain all the wild things they do and the crimes they are committing today?

Wild things have been done by young people from time immemorial. Crimes, or the increase in them, are due to the society we develop. We have a greater population today and modern inventions make the committing of crimes by youngsters easier. They are simply using tools which were not available years ago, but in proportion to the past I think we have as great a percentage of good and fine and stable young people as ever.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1957

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

McCall's, volume 84, September 1957

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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