If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1961


Do you think it's worth spending billions of dollars to beat the Russians to the moon when so many areas on earth need financial aid so desperately? Isn't it simply a shockingly expensive propaganda measure?

I don't think the President or the government would decide to spend more money on the project unless they felt it had either psychological importance or military value. I confess that, not being a scientist, I am more interested in what we can do to make our own earth a better place to live. But I realize that science cannot stand still. It may be part of the moving forward on earth for our scientists to move forward in the knowledge of the whole universe. Nothing our government does today is a purely propaganda measure, and everything it does is shockingly expensive. But progress is necessary in every field, so there is no use in our being critical unless we really understand what we are critical about.


Do you agree with Walter Lippmann's statement that President Kennedy is not explaining his program to the public in an effective manner?

I did not hear Mr. Lippmann's statement, but I entirely agree that the President cannot possibly explain his program adequately to the people through his press conferences. In answering members of the press, the President is never able to explain fully any one program. On the other hand, I felt that his statement on his return from the European trip was a masterpiece. It was clear; it did not try to exaggerate the importance of what had been done; it told the people the truth. I think it was very valuable. I believe that periodic speeches of this kind, like my husband's fireside chats, are essential. In this way, the people can learn in more detail about each problem the President feels is important. I hope he will take individual subjects, from time to time, and explain them thoroughly.


Khrushchev said recently that Castro was not a Communist. Do you agree?

I have never heard Mr. Khrushchev define what a Communist really is. I don't know Doctor Castro. If Khrushchev meant Castro is not well versed in Marxism, he might be right; but I cannot assess a man to whom I have never even spoken.


Why is it so difficult to find first-rate men to run for the office of mayor of New York? Surely the job is important enough to warrant top ability.

The mayor of New York has a tremendous administrative job. There are some 150,000 city employees. Choosing the people who are going to help administer this enormously complicated business would be quite difficult even if one were free to do it without any pressures. But this is not the case. A mayor is under pressure on every possible political front. He has inherited a system, in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, that was built to benefit the bosses and uses corruption to achieve its ends. It is not surprising that it is difficult to get anyone to run for this office.


The area in which we live has been selected for a large housing development under Urban Renewal. All the residents of the neighborhood have banded together to try to save the neighborhood and the old houses that we love. Can you suggest ways in which we might try to get the city to reverse its decision? And do you honestly believe that such action ever stands a realistic chance of success? Has such a neighborhood ever been saved?

I am afraid I don't know whether a neighborhood has ever been saved. However, I think if the inhabitants went to the housing authorities and agreed to any necessary improvements, the authorities might try to preserve the character of the area.


What is your opinion of President Kennedy's proposal to curtail "expense-account living" by limiting the allowed deductible amount to $30 a day?

I think it is a good idea to try to reduce what is called expense-account living. But perhaps $30 a day is a rather drastic figure. It is often impossible to get a decent room and three meals for that amount of money.


For some time, I have wanted to start a small toy-manufacturing business. Although I have capital to get it under way and considerable knowledge of the business, everyone whose advice I've asked has, without exception, discouraged me. They say the rate of failure of such small enterprises is staggering and that practically no one makes a go of a small new business. I seem to recall that at one time you had a furniture-manufacturing company. On the basis of your experience, would you say my advisers are right or wrong?

We did start a small furniture factory at Hyde Park, with the idea that we could teach farm boys how to do fine cabinetmaking, to give them a way to make money during the slack season on the farms. We never made back the capital we put into the business, though we kept afloat during the Depression and paid the carrying expenses and wages. I know nothing of toy manufacturing, and so I have no firsthand advice to offer. I think, however, you might get information from the Small Business Committee in Congress.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1961

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

McCall's, volume 89, October 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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