If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1961


President Kennedy asked newspaper publishers to exercise self-censorship about news items that might not be in the national interest, and he quoted enemy leaders as saying American newspapers published military facts they could not have gotten except by espionage. Doesn't the blame lie with the government official or agency releasing that information, rather than with the press?

There is no question in my mind that we publish in our newspapers many things that should not be published. For instance, I think it would have been far better not to have announced that we were sending a man into space until we knew the results of the test. When the outcome was known, either failure or success, it would have been time enough to announce it. There is no point in other nations' having spies in this country, because we tell everything they might use spies to find out. I do not think, however, that the newspapers can be expected to do their own censoring. No newspaper agency could be sure the same standards would be observed by all newspapers. Government departments and government officials have to take the responsibility for keeping secret those things which should be kept secret and for releasing information the American people need to make proper decisions.


Are there any television programs that interest you particularly, any that you watch regularly?

I watched all the debates between the two Presidential candidates last fall. I watch newscasts or any program that has special national or international interest. Outside of that, I am afraid I haven't time to watch much TV.


What do you think of Russia's proposal to have a three-man committee head the Security Council of the UN?

I think it an extremely unwise proposal. It would mean endless discussion, and this is a time when we must come to quick decisions. Having one head is the only possible solution for an effective organization.


When you were in the White House, did you find the allotment for entertaining adequate, and would you consider it was adequate today? That is, can a President really do all the entertaining he should without (1) scrimping or (2) augmenting the allowance from his own or his supporters' personal fortunes?

This is a difficult question to answer, because it depends on what you consider proper for different kinds of entertainment. Some Presidents have offered nothing but a mild wine punch and cookies at big receptions. Others have had buffets, with a variety of drinks available. We served a little more than our predecessors, but not a great deal, because my husband came into office at the time of the Depression, and it was quite obvious then that one should not be extravagant. I don't think anyone, except Mr. Coolidge, got along without using extra money. In some cases, when a President did not have any money of his own, he was obliged to use a fund that was created for his use by some of his supporters. Few Presidents have ever left the White House with as much money as they came with.


Being Scottie lovers, my family and I have often wondered about President Roosevelt's little dog Fala. What age did he live to be? Is he perhaps buried at Hyde Park? Does he have any descendants? And do you have any Scotties now?

Fala lived to be thirteen years old. He is buried in the rose garden at Hyde Park, near the sundial. Next to him is the first dog my daughter owned, which was a great favorite of my husband's—a police dog named Chief. Each has a little oval stone with his name on it. Fala has descendants, though I don't happen to own any of them. I have a little Scottie, given me by some sweet children in Ohio, whose dog had a litter of puppies at the time Fala died. His name is Duffy and he lives at Hyde Park.


Like all big-city dwellers, you must occasionally feel frustrated by the terrible traffic problems that confront us. If, completely arbitrarily, you could make one traffic regulation to try to alleviate some of the congestion, what would it be?

I am not a traffic expert, but I think it might be possible for certain businesses to do their trucking, loading, and unloading during the night or early morning or late evening, so there would be fewer trucks on the streets in the daytime, when passenger traffic is the heaviest.


I am an ordinary person with an ordinary income, yet I am besieged (it seems to me) with requests for donations. My church needs money, my college needs money, the Red Cross, and the hospitals, and a dozen organizations for the prevention and treatment of a dozen different diseases need money. All these are worthy causes, so how do I decide where my necessarily limited contributions should go? I know you must face this problem a hundred times intensified. How do you decide?

First of all, I decide what I want to give to the organizations I really work with. My main contributions go to these. Then I consider the organizations I have affiliations with, either through inheritance or use of their facilities, and any particular cause that may be a new one making an especially timely appeal. In these cases, I give whatever I can—frequently, very small sums—and reserve whatever large sums I can give for projects I am working on.


Do you ever have the problem of the unauthorized use of your name in connection with products or campaigns? If you do, how do you handle it?

I don't often have a problem of this kind. In the one or two rare instances when it has happened, I have simply written and asked to have my name removed.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1961

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

McCall's, volume 88, September 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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