If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1960


Don't you think that filibustering is a rather silly, juvenile procedure for a supposedly dignified group like the Senate? Does it really accomplish anything that might not be better accomplished in a more adult way? Surely our lawmakers could find more profitable ways to spend their time than reading aloud from the telephone directory.

I have always thought that filibustering meant that the rules of the Senate were not good rules. I think there should be full and free debate, but it should be about the subject at hand and should not merely delay coming to a vote.


Do you believe that a couple should be formally engaged for a while before they marry? If so, how long do you think this engagement should be? How long were you engaged?

I was engaged for about a year and a half. I don't think there is any set time for an engagement, and I don't even know that a formal engagement before marriage is wise in certain cases. It all depends on the circumstances and how long the young people have known each other and what their situation is.


Do you think the rent-control situation will ever be straightened out so that there are not gross inequities in the rents people have to pay for apartments? Or do you think the answer would be to abolish controls completely and allow landlords to ask whatever rent they can get for their property?

When housing was scarce, some control was necessary to keep landlords from asking sky-high prices for apartments that were not worth what they were asking. Later, landlords felt the rents were set too low and they were being penalized by not being allowed to raise their rents when everything else was going up. Whether we can come back to the old law of supply and demand, I don't know.


Who pays the expenses of delegates attending political conventions, and how are those delegates chosen?

The average delegate pays his own expenses. Some delegates are chosen at large, usually by the state committee. Others are chosen in their congressional districts, and I think the number in each district is fixed by the national committee of each party. There are several methods of selecting those delegates, such as primary elections, state committee meetings, and state conventions.


I believe I have read somewhere that you once took speech instruction. You are such an effective speaker now that I would like to know whether this is true and how long such instruction takes.

It was not speech instruction but breath control that I studied. I went to Mrs. Elizabeth von Hesse, who, with her daughter, still teaches in New York. I went steadily for several months, and then at intervals fairly frequently. For some years, I have been able to go only once or twice a year.


In a recent issue of McCall's you said that you had learned to speak French before you spoke English. This seems so unusual I wonder if you'd tell us how it happened.

My mother happened to be very much interested in having me learn languages, so she engaged a French nurse for me, and I learned French words before I learned English.


Do you believe that seniority should be the sole factor determining the heads of congressional committees?

No. I think seniority should be taken into consideration, but qualifications for work to be done in a certain committee should be of paramount importance.


I am an independent in politics and used to dislike Mr. Nixon heartily. Now I must admit he has grown greatly in stature in the last several years, and I feel he could make a first-rate chief executive. Would you consider this a reasonable statement?

No doubt this is a reasonable statement for you, because you have come to this conclusion. For me, it would not be valid because I have not reached the same conclusion.


When you travel by ship, what class do you usually travel?

I have not been aboard a ship for a long while. When I went for the government, I always traveled first class. Before that, I was usually with my husband, and my recollection is that we also went first class. But today either tourist or cabin class is better than the modest first class of my early youth.


Have you ever met Clare Boothe Luce?

Yes, I have met Mrs. Luce many times. I have known her over a good many years, and I think she is a very beautiful woman, who has a great deal of ability and charm.


Just suppose—for the fun of it—that Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Truman were the opposing candidates in November. In your opinion, who would be elected?

Mr. Truman.


What do you do when you find yourself outgrowing old friends—no longer sharing their tastes and interests?

This has not happened to me. I have only a few intimate friends. If we live in different places and do not meet very often, we may drift apart. But those I do see, I carry on with in much the same way as I have in the past. Even if interests differ, you can bridge the gap when you are together.


You have said you wouldn't attend the Democratic Convention unless something unforeseen occurs. What kind of situation would make you change your mind?

I can only give you some examples. I have been asked to do some work on civil rights, and it may be necessary to ask me to appear before the resolutions committee or the platform committee. Or someone may feel I have a contribution to make in a special field. I would have to consider whether this was a valid reason. At the present time, I do not expect to attend.


I read the papers regularly, but I simply cannot figure out just what is the trouble between this country and Cuba. Now I discover that, whatever it is, it isn't confined to Cuba but apparently extends to a number of South American countries. Explicitly, what is it they dislike or resent about us? Do they have any justification?

In the days before my husband was President, South America resented very much the attitude they felt the United States assumed. This stemmed, I think, from the Monroe Doctrine and from the fact that when trouble arose in certain South American countries, we landed the Marines. We had always felt we guaranteed all South and Central American countries protection from aggression from anywhere else in the world. As the South American countries grew in strength, they wanted to be consulted and not directed, and we are gradually learning to do this. The establishment of the Organization of American States has led to much better feelings. In Cuba, the difficulties probably spring from the fact that we have not granted loans Cuba would like to have and certain individual Americans have taken some active part against the revolution, which has not endeared them or our country to the revolutionaries. The revolution in Cuba was entirely justified. The previous government had been corrupt and had exploited the people. Having won the revolution, Mr. Castro does not seem able to set up a government. This may give you a better understanding of the difficulties between us, but I don't think there is any problem so important that we cannot come to an understanding if we really want to do so.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, June 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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