If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1960


Don't you think that today, more than ever, we need a universal language, so that representatives of all nations can communicate readily with one another? For example, Esperanto. It seems to me the UN should do something about this.

I am afraid I am not very sympathetic with the idea of a synthetic language when, as far as I can see, more and more people are making English their second language. The UN is in an English-speaking country, and representatives from other countries learn English, some of them very rapidly. All over the world, English is becoming the second language taught in schools. I think that having one language in which all can communicate is valuable, but it does not take the place of communicating with people in their own tongues. Therefore, learning as many languages as possible is always important for people who are interested in world affairs and in promoting better understanding among peoples.


Does it ever bother you that your age, a woman's traditional secret, is known to all the world?

No. My age has been known for so long it does not bother me at all.


The recent Congressional investigation of television quiz shows raised a question that seems more important than whether a particular show was or wasn't rigged. Doesn't it seem to you likely that there are many matters more pressing than entertainment that our lawmakers should be concerning themselves about?

I don't happen to like Congressional investigations, and I wish this investigation had come about some other way. I do think, however, that bringing out a question of dishonesty is very essential. In this case, it pointed up how accustomed we have become to dishonest advertising. The fact that it seems to be taken for granted that the public is here to be fooled is appalling. As a member of the public, I resent it.


The cost of education is rising so rapidly that fewer and fewer parents will be able to send their children to college without absolutely strapping themselves. Have you any opinion about government subsidy for qualified students?

It seems to me imperative that we accept the fact that we can no longer afford to waste our human material the way we are doing. Too many young people do not prepare for college, because they are afraid they will not have an opportunity to go. Others prepare, and then there is no money to send them to college. I think we are a rich enough country to provide all children capable of it with higher education. Going to college should depend on ability and not on finances. The cost should be borne by all taxpayers as it is for public elementary and high schools.


If Symington, Kennedy, and Johnson should be the only Democratic candidates available for the Presidency, which one would you choose?

I am not making up my mind until the convention meets which of the various candidates in the field for the Democratic nomination this year I am going to support.


It is extremely unpopular today to suggest that children owe their parents any gratitude. Don't you think everyone has an obligation to his mother and father?

I think it should be unpopular. I don't think children owe their parents any gratitude. If parents do not have enough to live on, I think that any children who love them will certainly, if able, feel the desire to give whatever they can to make their parents' lives happier. They would be strange people indeed if they did not have this feeling, and there would be something wrong with their relationship. But if children give help purely from a sense of obligation, it will be bitterly given and bitterly received. I think every human being has an obligation to all those who love him to reach the highest qualifications and achievements he possibly can to serve however he can the good of all human beings. In that way, he gives those who love him the greatest satisfaction. But it is love, not obligation, that brings about warm and happy relations within families.


Is it possible for any man to rise to a high position in politics without being subject to mudslinging?

Oh, yes, I suppose it's possible, though he would have to be pretty careful about doing anything at all. The less he did that would make friends or enemies, the easier it would be to avoid mudslinging.


Do you do all your own writing, or do you sometimes use a ghost?

I have never used a ghost. I have worked with other people and have had a great deal of help, which I am always anxious to acknowledge, both in organizing my material and presenting it better; but the material has always been mine.


So much of the money you earn today must go back to the government in the form of income tax that I wonder you continue to work to earn more money. I know the virtue of keeping busy, but what's the use when you seem to keep less and less each year of what you earn? Don't you think our government has changed for the worse in this direction?

No. I don't think having to pay an income tax is any change for the worse. I like to work, and I think it is good for all for us. I take money, in some cases, for my work, though I do much work as a volunteer. To me it is worth-while working, even if much of the money is paid to the government.


Do you think a sense of humor is an asset or a liability in politics? For example, doesn't Adlai Stevenson's humor make him "suspect" to most voters?

I think a sense of humor is essential to living—more essential, perhaps, for a person in public life than in any other field.


When you entertain royalty and other dignitaries, as I believe you frequently still do, is it necessary to observe any special protocol, or does one treat a princess or U.S. Senator, say, as one treats any other guest of honor?

When you live as simply as I do, you must treat all guests of honor in much the same way. But if you know what protocol is, you try to observe it when you think it is important.


The great complaint among women today is "We're so busy." Yet it would seem to me we should be less busy than ever before in history. All of our household chores have been made infinitely easier and quicker for us. There are more educational and recreational activities that occupy our children's lives. Few of us have husbands who come home to lunch. And even culture and current events are piped into our homes. Can you explain why, under these circumstances, women should feel so pressed for time?

Yes, just because so many things are offered to us today that were not obtainable in the past, both in our homes and outside. There is more to do; there are more vistas opening on life, new and different areas of work and recreation. Anyone who was not busy today would be a person of very limited interests indeed. But one must organize one's life to bring one's interests under control and not be too busy.


When you invest in the stock market, do you take any part in selecting the investments, or do you leave that in the hands of a financial adviser?

I take no part whatsoever. I leave it all in the hands of my bank.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, February 1960

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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