If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1961


Many people have commented on Mr. Kennedy's approach to the Presidency by saying that it reminds them of President Roosevelt's concept of the office. Do you agree that there is a similarity, and if so, what would you say the common qualities are?

Yes, there are many similarities. My husband faced problems that had to be met immediately. So does President Kennedy, and he is trying to solve them as quickly as circumstances will allow. President Kennedy is showing decisiveness and great courage, as I think my husband did. He runs a risk of making mistakes; but I think he, like my husband, believes that when things need to be done, it is better to make some mistakes and try to correct them than to do nothing. President Kennedy reads on many subjects, evidently very quickly. So did my husband. I think both might be characterized as having the human touch—a genuine interest in the well-being of people in this country and everywhere.


Do you think it possible for two mature women—mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, for instance—to live under one roof in peaceful coexistence?

I think it possible but not probable.


The State Department's chief of protocol, Angier Biddle Duke, has suggested that United States embassies throughout the world are spending "staggering sums" for entertaining. Yet the State Department requested a $100,000 increase for diplomatic representatives. Do you think our ambassadors, for the most part, entertain too lavishly?

There is no question that some of our ambassadors who were men of great personal means have entertained on a scale the career diplomat without personal means would find impossible to sustain. Embassies give a great deal of service to visiting Americans—not only government officials and representatives of Congress, but tourists. We expect rather more from our embassies than we should. I think we need the amount requested by the State Department, to give adequate entertainment allowances to many of our representatives. I do not think we need to be at all afraid this increase will make them as lavish as a few representatives have been in the past.


What do you consider the major faults of the American press?

I would say the faults vary. I happen to live in New York, where we get very good coverage of both national and international affairs; but when I travel in other states, I find there are few papers you can count on to give the same type of news coverage. This is a real mistake, for we all need to be conscious of the world as a whole today. Occasionally, I find, news stories are colored by the wishes or interests of the owners; the reporters are not permitted to report objectively. This is bad, because, while the editorial page of a paper is permitted to reflect the individual views of the people writing it or of the owner or publisher, the news should be reported as nearly as possible without color. One other criticism I have found is perhaps the fault of the readers, as newspapers insist they try to give the readers what they want. This is the excuse for an emphasis on crimes and sensational stories. I think it would be better to leave these in the files of the police departments, rather than spreading them on the pages of our newspapers.


Why do people in our State Department consider Red China more of a menace to our future than Russia? Shouldn't it be easier for us to make friends with the Chinese than with the Russians?

The people in our State Department realize that we know nothing of the growth of power in China at the present time. And when you know little of the internal affairs of a country, it can constitute a serious menace. We do know something now about the Soviet Union, so we are able to plan with knowledge, not just imagination. Traditionally, we have been friends with the Chinese people; but in the past few years, they have turned against us. I am told they feel very bitter toward us, and it will take a long time before we can really be friends again.


Do you think the United States ever will subsidize symphony orchestras and ballet companies as some European countries do?

Yes, of course we will eventually. We have just not grown up sufficiently to realize the valuable contributions of the arts.


Can you give us your ideas on two or three specific practical measures for stopping the outbreak of juvenile delinquency that seems to affect our cities every summer?

I think something along the lines of the suggested teen-age civilian conservation corps would be a great help. We can see that the police clubs (PAL) are supported and kept open all summer and that other facilities for recreation are available to keep young people busy during the day and evening. I think we could make conspicuous progress in reducing juvenile delinquency if we simply did these few things.


Do you think there is any justification, under any circumstances, for a full day's pay for workers who do not work a full day?

The full day has changed very much and is probably going to change even more. At one time, people worked ten to twelve hours a day. In the future, workers may work only four hours a day! This will benefit people if they use the leisure time profitably, which they can do only if they are taught to broaden their interests and skills.


In your travels abroad, have you ever felt that postal service in other countries is better than that in the United States?

Yes, I have. There are, for instance, more rapid means of communication by post in both Paris and London. I do not think that, as a rule, the postal service of the United States is really very good.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1961

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

McCall's, volume 88, July 1961

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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