If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1960


How often do you go for a medical checkup?

Only when my doctor makes me go.


Will you attend the Democratic convention in Los Angeles next summer? If so, what will your message to the party be?

At present, I have no intention of attending the Democratic convention. However, even if I should be there, I don't know that I will be asked to give any message. There will be a variety of other people from whom it will be much more important to hear, and I have ample opportunity to express my hopes and aspirations for the Democratic Party without attending the convention. I hope nothing will occur that will make it seem advisable for me to attend.


Were there any points on which you and your husband disagreed in raising your children?

We occasionally disagreed, but his decision was the final one. Sometimes when he was tempted to give in to the children's wishes, I persuaded him not to; but in the end, the decision was his. His mother was very definite in her feelings about how to raise our children, and he always listened to her as well as to me.


I read that you recently bought a house in New York and wonder if you encountered the endless delays in taking full possession that we have. I cannot understand why, when someone buys a house in the city, there seems to be no legal way of making former tenants vacate. Any suggestions?

If you bought a house free of restrictions, you would only have to respect the leases that were in effect when you bought it. Then, on proper notice, your tenants would have to leave, and you could take possession. I waited a year to move into one floor of my apartment in the house my friends and I purchased together. I hope someday to have another floor, though that will not be free until the lease runs out in 1961.


Are any of our friends atheists?

I have really never inquired. As far as I know, there are no atheists among my intimate friends, although I have known atheists.


Has music had any influence on your life?

I don't really know how much. In my youth, it probably served as a very good discipline for me, because I was forced to practice hours at the piano, when I knew quite well I would never attain much skill. I did, however, learn appreciation of music, and the pleasure it has given me is something I would hate to have missed. It can rest me, inspire me, and at times bewilder me in these modern days; but I think I derive as much pleasure from music as from any of the arts.


How do you keep your hands looking so lovely and well-groomed? Do you find time for a weekly manicure, or do you do your nails yourself?

I usually go to have my hair and nails done once a week, or at least every ten days.


How many plays and movies do you see in the course of a year?

I see very few movies, but I see as many plays as I can—probably about three every six weeks.


What do you think of sending three-year-olds to nursery school? Doesn't that seem awfully young?

No, not for nursery school. Nursery schools often take children from one and a half to two years old, and I have seen many of them profit greatly by the experience. The hours are not too long, and the child is fed and is allowed to rest during the period. I think the contact with other children and the discipline are excellent. Besides, sending children to nursery school gives our modern young mothers, who have a great deal to do, time to do their work while the youngest of their children are well cared for outside the home.


In any election year, there's always a big argument about whether it's better to vote a straight ticket or split your ballot. Would you please tell me what you think?

I have always thought this something the individual must decide for himself. I decided a long while ago that voting for the individual rather than the party was valid in local elections but not in elections covering state and national issues. One chooses a party because, on the whole, that party has shown a record of accomplishment that approximates one's ideas of good government. Nothing is ever perfect, of course; but once a choice has been made, it seems to me that anything beyond the local level should be a question of voting for a party rather than an individual.


What traits do you think distinguish a well-bred person from one of poor breeding?

The most important traits I know of are kindliness and consideration for others. Good breeding does not allow people to be undisciplined and selfish.


Attending as many luncheons and dinners as you do, do you have any difficulty sticking to a reasonable diet?

No. Lunches and dinners are a little monotonous, because one is apt to get the same thing over and over again, and a little home food is a relief now and then; but I am afraid I am not given to sticking to any particular diet, so I really don't give the problem much thought.


If you had more leisure time, how would you use it?

I would like to travel and read more.


Excepting your husband, who, in your opinion and from a study of history, were our five greatest Presidents?

Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. I have given them in the order in which they appeared on the American horizon. If I could give you six, I would add Woodrow Wilson.


There is so much talk about Soviet and American education. Is there anything specific you think it would benefit us to copy from the Russian school system?

The Russian school system is based very much on the French and German patterns. Our own system was also set up with a knowledge of these patterns, but with a desire for a different kind of achievement. It might benefit us, though, to encourage more of the Russians' respect for learning as learning. The Russian insistence on acquiring foreign languages could also be an asset to us.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, March 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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