If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1961


In January, the United States Supreme Court upheld the practice of prerelease censorship of films. Isn't this decision an infringement of our civil rights of freedom of speech and press?

I don't really know about the legal aspects of this question. I must say that while ordinarily I am opposed to censorship, I do think we need some censorship to preserve good taste in our movies. If we had really intelligent people doing the censoring, I would also like to have films censored before they were sent overseas. I have seen a great deal of harm done, first in creating a false impression of what the United States is like, and second in sending movies, which might be quite all right to show in this country, into a country where they incite dislike and suspicion of us. This means we should have to choose a censorship board with great care for its intelligence and knowledge.


In 1961, we are getting fewer long holiday weekends, because Decoration Day, Independence Day, and Washington's Birthday all fall on midweek days instead of on weekends or Mondays, as they have for the past two years. Do you favor Congressional action to set these holidays always to fall on Monday?

I think it would be very pleasant to have all these holidays give us long weekends. Whether we could get Congressional action on this proposal, I don't know.


Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., special assistant to President Kennedy, was quoted as saying the welfare-state idea was deeply consistent with the American tradition. Perhaps I misunderstand the term "welfare state," but I do not think it is at all in the American tradition. Do you agree with Mr. Schlesinger's statement?

I am sorry to say I don't know the framework in which Mr. Schlesinger made his statement. I don't see anything inconsistent with our system in increasing our central government's interest in the welfare of the people in general to meet the situations that have grown up in our society. In our early days, each man was forced to look after himself and to go to the help of his neighbor, because he had to count on his neighbor to help him. However, as life has become more complex, the government has assumed more responsibility. I think it is quite in the American tradition to have the government institute measures needed for the welfare of the people.


In recent months, following the compulsory removal of Hulan Jack from office as president of New York's Borough of Manhattan, the Democratic organization insisted that another Negro be appointed to Mr. Jack's position. Do you subscribe to the notion that a Negro should be elected or appointed to office merely because he is a Negro? If so, would you please explain why?

It seems as completely contrary to American principles that a man should get an office because of his race or religion as to keep a man out of office for these reasons. I don't think anyone should be elected because of race or religion. People should be chosen because of fitness for office. Ability and character should be the first considerations.


On your trips by air, do you usually travel first class or tourist?

There are occasions when I go first class because I find that no other plane will get to my destination in time. On the whole, however, when I choose my own travel accommodations, I usually go tourist.


Would you like to see our system of commercially sponsored television replaced either by a pay-TV system or by the British system of separating advertisers from program control?

I think there is much to be said for the British system. I have never been quite convinced of the real value of paid TV. If one could get certain types of program that were not interrupted by commercials, it would be a great advantage.


Do you think that Nationalist China will continue to survive, in its present strength and status, after the death of Chiang Kai-shek?

It is difficult to say what will happen at the death of a leader who has been the only leader of his particular group. But at present, the group led by Chiang Kai-shek is not a very large one, and a far more important question is what we should do to give the Formosans an opportunity to choose how they wish to shape their future in a world that is greatly changed.


For some reason, I hear more and more people say that, in their memory, the best mayor New York ever had was Fiorello LaGuardia. I, too, have the feeling that his was an efficient and honest administration, and I had more of a sense of pride in my city then than I have now. I am an independent in politics, having no party affiliation; but I am one of many who would like to see another Fusion candidate in New York this coming fall. I am writing to ask if you yourself could see your way clear to supporting a Fusion candidate if he were a man you liked and trusted.

As a Democrat, I would certainly far prefer to find a Democratic candidate who I felt would be an excellent mayor. But faced with the choice between a poor Democrat and a good Fusion candidate, I can conceive of feeling that the city would be better off with the Fusion candidate. I would, of course, be sorry to see the Democrats defeated because they had not made a good enough record in public service.


In your opinion, what is the chief cause of the deterioration of our relations with Cuba?

I think the causes go back a long time. In all probability, both our government representatives and our business representatives failed to take enough interest in the welfare of the people of Cuba and failed to make them feel that the United States was interested in them, not merely in keeping in office a regime that gave us the least trouble.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1961

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

McCall's, volume 88, May 1961

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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