If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1960


I am a nineteen-year-old member of a Protestant church. But I'm not sure there is a God. My parents ask me to go to church with them, so I do; but I feel like a hypocrite. I can't talk to my mother and father, because they expect me to accept God without question. Mrs. Roosevelt, does God live, here or anywhere?

There is nothing peculiar about your anxieties. Almost all young people go through a period when they have such misgivings. There was a time when people thought of God as an individual, much like the people they knew. Today, I think many of us think of Him as a Spirit, a great Force. There is much we cannot understand; but we know that, without some help far beyond our own strength, we could never meet the needs of the world in which we live. You may never be able to decide exactly what you believe, but you can pray to and believe in a God Whose infinite wisdom allows freedom of thought and action, and Who gives hope that there will be a future and that it will be good.


Is anybody every really cured of cancer, and how does the Cancer Crusade help people?

About one million Americans, now living, have been cured of cancer. Doctors generally use the word "cured" only if there has been no recurrence for five years after treatment. The Cancer Crusade is a month-long educational and fund-raising drive, conducted by the American Cancer Society, to spread the message that many cancers can be cured by early treatment and to collect funds for research, education, and service to patients.


Two leading candidates for the Presidency have recently stated flatly that they wouldn't accept the Vice-Presidency. What's wrong with the Vice-Presidency that top men won't consider working in that position?

There is nothing the matter with the Vice-Presidency except that politically you can't say you will run for the Vice-Presidency when you are really trying for the Presidential nomination. The work of the Vice-President is, of course, entirely different than that of the President. It requires a knowledge of parliamentary law and a willingness to sit in the Senate and listen to endless debate. My husband, for instance, felt that this would be extremely difficult and perhaps at times a not very interesting role to play. That may be the feeling other people have about it. But it has led to the Presidency a number of times. Incidentally, the Vice-Presidency was wanted very much, at the time of the last Democratic convention, by one of the present candidates for the Presidency, who has now announced that he will not accept the nomination for the Vice-Presidency.


Do you approve of children's calling their parents by their first names?

I don't see that it makes the slightest difference if they and their parents prefer this arrangement. The point is what kind of relationship is built between them, not what they call each other.


I know you don't greatly prize material things, but don't you have any favorite possession you cherish out of all proportion to their intrinsic value?

I love beautiful things, and I want them around me; but I try never to put them above the more important relationships of life. Of course I have any number of objects I cherish purely because of their association and not because of their intrinsic worth at all. I don't see how people could possibly live and not have around them objects, often from their childhood, which they love.


What are your views on the proposal to make a separate state out of New York City?

It would certainly be an artificial state with very little diversity, so I am hopeful we will remain as we are and have all the varieties of interests and scenery that are encompassed by New York State as it is today.


I am a high-school student and may elect to study French, Spanish, or German. Which would you recommend?

I happen to have learned French before I learned English and to love it as a language, and I enjoy its literature very much. However, if I were you, I would learn the language I felt would be most useful in what I wanted to do. Do you want to travel in Europe? Then French is the best language. Are your interests economic and scientific? If so, you should learn German. If you want to travel in South and Central America, you should learn Spanish.


Do you buy a new costume for Easter?

Of course I buy an Easter costume when I have the time and money to do so!


Besides the Scotties we have often seen pictured, do you have, or have you ever had, any other kinds of pet?

I have never had any pets but dogs. When I was a child, my first dogs were fox terriers. I have also known and loved a police dog; but because of my husband's affection for them, Scotties have been my most frequent pets in recent years. We have had, however, any number of pets, from parrots to fish and alligators and mice and guinea pigs and cats; but I don't happen to have been the one to bring them into the family.


Is there any place in the world you haven't visited and would particularly like to see? Do you have any plans for such a visit?

I want to see all the parts of the world that I have not seen. But I never plan on just going to a certain place; I must have a reason for going and feel there is something to be accomplished. At the moment, I have no plans for any trip except a short one to Europe this summer to attend the World Federation of United Nations Associations' meeting.


Has the role Nixon played in settling the steel strike altered your opinion of him?



In your life you have participated in a number of career fields—politics, welfare, journalism, radio, and television, diplomacy, etc. If, like most people, you had to concentrate on a single career field, which of these would you choose as a lifework?

I think I would work in welfare, because in welfare all the other things can be a part of what you use and what you learn.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, April 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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