If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1958


What makes you think you really saw what goes on in Russia? Weren’t you shown the special spots that all tourists see?

I doubt that most tourists see as many things as I asked to see in as many different places. We don't show our worst side to tourists and neither do the Russians, but with a little observation you can usually see what is bad about a country as well as what is good. You also often hear about things even if you don't see them.


A minister has proposed that church services be held on Thursday evening instead of Sunday morning. He feels churches would get larger attendance this way. Would you approve?

I do not think I would like having to go to services on Thursday evening instead of on Sunday morning; it would seem unnatural to me. There are some churches, of course, which have evening services during the week, but the pattern of Sunday churchgoing is so well established that it is hard to think of throwing it aside. I do realize that some men think of Sunday only as a day for exercise and out-of-door activities, but I am not sure that these men would give up a pleasant social occasion for church on Thursday evening any more than they would give up a golf game for church on Sunday.


In referring to Khrushchev recently you said he looked like a peasant—short, thickset, square hands, and so on. Would you say that ex-Secretary of Defense Wilson, who fits this description, also looks like a peasant?

No, I wouldn't, because I do not happen to know ex-Secretary of Defense Wilson.


Do you have any tricks to help yourself go to sleep if you're in a strange or noisy place and are having trouble falling asleep?

I do not go to bed until so late that I never have the slightest trouble falling asleep. A strange place or a noisy one makes no difference. Being totally deaf in one ear, I simply turn over on my good ear and don't hear a thing if it is noisy!


I heard you say on television that Democratic leader Lyndon Johnson was good at maneuvering but not at getting decisions. I was wondering just what decisions you had in mind.

I think the word which I used was "policies," not "decisions." I was pointing out that the Democratic leaders in Congress had not succeeded in formulating many policies. Since the Republican administration has not formulated clear policies either, the large majority of the people in this country has very little idea of the long-range policies of either party in foreign or domestic affairs.


Did you receive any gifts from Russian leaders during your recent trip to the Soviet Union?

I received no gifts from the Soviet leaders; but in Tashkent the head of the Moslem church presented me with some pieces of silk of the kind used for dresses by the women in that area, and some little caps which we would call "beanies," which are worn by both men and women there. The men wear black caps with white embroidery and the women wear brightly colored ones.


You said recently that you were sure there were plenty of women who would qualify for President. Would you name me one?

No. I have learned from past experience that it is unwise to name people either as candidates for office or as qualified for this or that. The enemies you make by mentioning certain names and leaving out others outweigh the good you might do by giving suggestions to those who cannot think for themselves.


Why do you think the Russians got ahead of us in developing satellites?

In a democracy you have to rely on leadership from the administration plus financing from Congress, whereas in Russia the central government both makes the decisions and carries them out. The Russians are extremely research-minded and they put a great deal of money and effort into it, which is one reason, I think, that they may be moving ahead faster than we are in this area. It is not that we can't move ahead faster, it is that as a people we do not seem to realize how essential scientific research is and Congress hesitates to appropriate money for things it is not sure the voters want.


I notice you feel it's better to be permissive in bringing up children. Does this mean you don't insist on good manners?

I have no children to bring up at present, but I did try to insist on good manners when my own children were young. I do believe in discipline, but discipline must be fair and consistent.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1958

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

McCall's, volume 85, February 1958

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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