If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1957


What is your formula for getting ahold of your emotions in a critical time like your husband's death, for example, and facing things calmly?

I think any great calamity always brings with it a certain numbness which makes it easier to be calm. The difficulty, really, is later when the reaction sets in. At the time of a great blow it is almost impossible to take in just what has happened, and so you turn your attention to minutiae—little things which have to be done and which keep you on an even keel. One does, of course, draw unconsciously upon the disciplines and habits built up through a lifetime. If one has learned to control emotions, then even when the reaction sets in it is possible to think of other people instead of oneself and to meet the obligations of the time and the situation.


Would you say that you brought up your children in a strict or permissive tradition?

I think I brought them up—the older ones, at least—in a strict tradition. As I became more confident of my own judgment, I think I was a little less strict and did a better job than I did as a younger woman.


I would like to know what you consider the biggest achievement and what the worst mistake of President Eisenhower's second term.

I think probably the biggest achievement is the passage of the civil rights bill. It may not be all that some of us would like it to be, but it is a beginning—a step in the right direction—and therefore a great achievement. The great mistakes have been, I think, in the area of foreign affairs. I think real statesmanship and foresight might have averted the Suez crisis, from which so many other difficulties have stemmed.


Have you noticed that there are fewer unkind remarks about you in the press in recent years? Do you think there is any special reason for this?

Perhaps it is just because I am growing old and people know they will not have to put up with me for many more years, so they are more kindly disposed when I do or say things with which they disagree.


Every president seems to have some secret he has to keep to himself for many months. I have been wondering what your husband's most burdensome secret was and whether he shared it with you.

I imagine his most burdensome secret was the development of atomic energy, but my husband did not share it with me. It would not have been a secret if he had. All of us in the family knew that something very secret was going on which might conceivably decide the outcome of the war, but that was all.


Has your opinion of Richard Nixon changed any in the past year?

No, I'm afraid it has not.


What nickname did you have when you were a child?

My father called me Little Nell and later my aunts called me Totty; but that is so long ago that I have forgotten about these nicknames, and no one uses them any more.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1957

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

McCall's, volume 85, December 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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