If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1960


Do you agree that NATO's position has become so weakened that we may now consider it defunct?

No. However, I would say that the purpose for which NATO was founded has been so altered by the change in the military scene that the whole idea of NATO must be reconsidered. When it was founded, we were wondering whether, at some point, a great Russian army might roll across Europe, wiping out everything before there could be any help from the United States. Now it is practically sure that no army will roll across Europe; it would be much simpler to attack directly in the United States and to conquer Europe without any destruction. So, actually, the purpose of NATO must be changed if the organization is to be of any value.


Was your husband ever asked to be godparent to any children of European royalty?

My husband was quite frequently asked to be a godparent to the children of European royalty. One of the Duke of Kent's boys was his godson and one of Queen Juliana's daughters was a goddaughter. At the moment, I don't remember any others.


Do you consult your sons in making major decisions, and if so, do you usually follow their advice?

When I have to decide anything that concerns my children, of course I consult them. When it concerns only myself, I don't feel obligated to do so. If I consult them, I consider their advice carefully and frequently follow it.


What are your personal feelings about the insistence of the American press on coining familiar nicknames for men in high office? Don't you think the public would like to have its Presidents, governors, etc., referred to more respectfully? How do you feel when you see yourself referred to in a headline merely as Eleanor?

I was not conscious that the American press was responsible for such nicknames. I thought it was usually the people who coined them, and the press simply picked them up. I think anyone speaking to the President or to a governor always refers to him respectfully by his title. However, sometimes the nicknames are expressions of affection, and then I think anyone would be pleased and would not consider it lack of respect. I really have no feelings about headlines referring to me as Eleanor.


Do you ever go by yourself into a restaurant for a meal, or shop for clothes without first making an appointment? If so, are you ever able to remain anonymous? Does recognition please or annoy you, or are you indifferent to it?

I rarely go into a restaurant either alone or with other people. Occasionally, I drop in somewhere to get a bite if I have no time for lunch at home. I often shop without making appointments, and I am always recognized. However, I am very quick in whatever I do, so it does not bother me. I don't see why anyone should be annoyed by being recognized, when it always means people are pleasant and agreeable to you. If you loiter in a restaurant or store, you may draw a crowd, so you learn to move fast.


What would you think of replacing Latin classes, which are practically universal in our high schools, with Russian classes and making Russian a prerequisite for college entrance?

I would be sorry to see Latin given up, since it is the basis for the study of many languages. Russian should be taught as a separate language and studied by those who wish to speak it. No particular language should be picked out as a prerequisite for college entrance.


Before the resignation of Syngman Rhee as president of Korea, I read that the United States had urged him to repudiate recent elections and install members of his opposition party in office. By what right does the United States make such recommendations to another country?

I don't remember reading that we had asked Syngman Rhee to repudiate Korean elections. I know that we asked him to undertake some reforms. We have a certain responsibility in Korea, since it is one of our generals who heads the UN army there and we have lent the Koreans large sums of money. Syngman Rhee's government seemed to be decidedly out of favor, and he seemed to rule so autocratically that the people (though they did owe him a debt of gratitude) did not feel they had the freedom they had a right to demand. I think that whatever we did was in the nature of a recommendation, not a demand, since of course we would not demand from another government any type of action.


Do you think an only child is at a disadvantage in learning to live happily with other people?

I was not an only child. I had two younger brothers—one of whom died of diphtheria when only four years old. The other was like one of our own children, because from the time that I married until he married, he lived with my husband and me. He died in the autumn of 1941, when we were in the White House. In some ways, however, because I was so much older than my brothers, I did feel like an only child at times. I think being an only child is a disadvantage, because I believe children discipline each other and experience great joy growing up together. This probably does help them to live with other people later on.


Your philosophy and, indeed, your life seem to be dedicated to doing things for others. Most Americans have felt it was the things individuals or groups or nations did for themselves that they valued most highly. Don't you think it's possible to rob persons and peoples of these accomplishments by doing too much for them? Do you, as an individual, welcome or resist the efforts of others to do things for you?

I think that people, both as individuals and as nations, need help. If the help is given in the proper spirit and in the proper way, it will not rob them of a sense of their own accomplishment. No amount of outside help can really achieve the full result of what people want for themselves; but unless they get some help, they may never be able to accomplish some of the things they want most. I am most grateful for the innumerable things people do for me, and I could not possibly live my life unless I accepted a great deal of help from others. I do have to love the people, however, and feel that what they do is done willingly and affectionately. Otherwise, I might feel that the help had ulterior motives or was grudgingly given.


What's the most valuable piece of jewelry you have ever owned?

A diamond necklace, which I inherited from my cousin Mrs. Henry Parish and which had previously belonged to her mother, Mrs. E. H. Ludlow. It now belongs to my daughter.


Have you ever failed completely at something you tried to do?

When I was a small child, I remember very well trying to learn to spell certain words and failing completely when I took the examination. My mother was disgusted with me, and I felt utterly miserable. Since that time, nothing has made such an impression on me, though I am quite sure I have failed many other times.


Do you carry hospital insurance?

Yes. I was asked by some people to take out a new type of hospital insurance, as an example to other older people, and I did so.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, August 1960

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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