If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1959


What do you think of James Hoffa's attempt to unionize the New York City police force? In fact, what do you think of Mr. Hoffa generally?

I do not think we should permit any public servants who are responsible for the well-being of a large number of citizens, either in a big city or in any area, to be members of a private union. I don't know Mr. Hoffa, but I think he should have controlled his representative in New York and prevented the move toward unionizing the police force. Had his plans gone through, I think he would have established a little labor dictatorship.


I've heard that you enjoy the theater and attend often. What plays have you particularly enjoyed recently?

A Touch of the Poet and J.B., though the latter was considerably more than just enjoyment!


During Mikoyan's recent visit to the United States I was struck by the fact that he spoke no English. Then I realized that many of our own top State Department men probably don't speak Russian. Do these people always have to confer through interpreters? Wouldn't it be a big aid to understanding if they spoke a common language?

It certainly is a tremendous aid to understanding when people can communicate in the same language. In the old days French was considered the language of diplomats. Now it is our policy not to send anyone who does not speak Russian to the Soviet Union. Our last two ambassadors both spoke Russian. I have an idea that Mr. Mikoyan understands considerable English. However, it is a safeguard to use an interpreter, because it gives you time to think over your answer.


What do you consider your greatest personal extravagance?

My constant hospitality, which can consume large sums of money from one's food-and-wages budget.


Will you explain why you signed a petition attacking the House Un-American Activities Committee's fight against Communism?

I signed the petition because I thought the time had come to do away with certain restrictions that had been essential in wartime. It seems to me now that the regular machinery, such as the FBI and the Secret Service, are sufficient. We don't need a committee in Congress to snoop around looking for things which it is the business of the Department of Justice and the people under its jurisdiction to watch.


How do you select your secretaries?

I have been extremely fortunate. My first secretary, Miss Malvina Thompson, was with me for a great many years. During that time she selected anyone who worked for us. After her death, Miss Maureen Corr, whom she had selected, stayed on; and I now let her choose whomever we need. Miss Thompson and Miss Corr have shown qualities which for me are essential—honesty, loyalty, efficiency—and they both have been the kind of people that I enjoy being with. I do not think I could have lived my life without them.


When your uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, was President, did you visit him in the White House?

Yes, on a number of occasions.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1959

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

McCall's, volume 86, May 1959

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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