If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1959


Recently, it seems that tremendous publicity is being given to any disease—especially cancer—that strikes a person who's in the public eye. Don't you think it would be in better taste to allow public figures a measure of decent privacy in such matters? How did your husband feel about having his illnesses publicized?

My husband knew there was no way he could hide the fact that he had polio. There is so much interest in whatever affects the President that it is impossible to keep news out of the papers, for what affects him affects the people. However, I sometimes think the details are too minutely described, and a little more restraint would be in better taste. But I believe the public does have a right to know about the health of a public servant.


After you left the White House, did you ever go back? If so, did it seem like a former home to you or like a public building?

I visited President and Mrs. Truman in the White House once or twice, not staying over, but simply calling on them. The White House did not seem like a former home of mine, but it is a very lovely home to live in on a temporary basis.


Do you ever watch television? What is your favorite program?

I watch television only when I want to see certain special programs. And if I possibly can, I watch when the President of the United States appears; or when any other public official speaks on a subject on which I think citizens should be informed. I have no favorite program, since I have no time to listen or watch just for pleasure.


What has happened to the job of Secretary of State? During President Roosevelt's administration—or at any time in the past—the men who held this position served in advisory capacities. Now it seems as though the job is more important than the President's. Don't you think that such great power should be in the hands of an elected, rather than an appointed, representative?

I think the position of Secretary of State has always carried great responsibility in the formation of foreign policy, but the last appeal is to the President, whose acquiescence must be sought. That means the final decision on questions of foreign policy actually rests in the hands of the President of the United States, who is an elected official.


Where did you and your husband go on your honeymoon?

We went to Hyde Park for a short honeymoon after our marriage. Then my husband had to go back to college, where he was studying law. That summer, though, we went abroad for three months for a delayed honeymoon.


Which do you think is the most beautiful city in the United States?

It is very hard to say, because different cities have different charms. I happen to like New York best because I was born there and have lived there off and on throughout my life. But I think both Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are very beautiful cities.


I'm certain that a great and gracious lady like yourself is almost never thoughtless or tactless. But if you realize that you may have unintentionally slighted someone or hurt his feelings, is it better to make a point of apologizing or better to let the incident be forgotten?

There are times when I would quite frankly say that I realized I had hurt someone's feelings, that I had not done so intentionally, and regretted it. But for the most part, an indirect approach—not forgetting the incident, but showing in subtle ways that no hurt was intended—may be better than the direct way.


Do you approve of psychoanalysis?

I certainly do approve of psychoanalysis when it is needed and when it is practiced by responsible, well-trained people.


When you were traveling abroad with your granddaughter, did she really buy a camel and have it sent home? What did she want it for?

Yes, my granddaughter did buy a camel. She did not have it sent home, because she discovered it could not be admitted to the United States, since our authorities believed it came from an area where hoof-and-mouth disease existed, and they did not wish to endanger cattle in this country. The Israelis were a bit hurt, for they feel no danger exists. My granddaughter wanted the camel because she liked it. Young camels are white and attractive, and she was drawn to this particular one in the camel mart in Beersheba, Israel, in much the same way one might be attracted to a particular puppy in a litter. I was convinced from the first that she would not get the camel into this country, so I was sorry for her—but not surprised—when she could not.

< Previous Column 1959 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1959

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

McCall's, volume 86, August 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC