If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1961


We all know that the divorce rate in the United States is the highest in the world. What do you think is the cause?

First and most important may be that, on the whole, our people are better off than people in the rest of the world. A great many of our women are quite able to support themselves and do not feel financially dependent on their husbands. I think the theory that you marry for better or for worse and, having made your decision, accept the results is not as widely accepted as formerly—that is, by groups whose religion does consider divorce permissible.


Just how far do you personally believe political-party loyalty should be carried? If you felt that President Kennedy were making some serious mistake, would you (1) volunteer your opinion to the public, (2) wait to be questioned about your feelings, or (3) simply keep silent?

I don't think that one should ever support anything one thinks is a serious mistake for the country, and I have often been critical of specific Democratic stands. If I felt strongly about something, I would certainly express my opinion in public and not keep silent or wait to be questioned. In the matter of voting—which, I suppose, is also a question of party loyalty—I do, however, consider the party as well as the man, because I know how difficult it is for a man to act independently of his party.


You always appear so completely at ease in all your public appearances that I wonder if you have ever experienced stage fright. If so, how did you overcome it so successfully?

I trembled so the first time I presided over a lunch that I did not know whether I could stand up, and I am quite sure my voice could not be heard. Louis Howe took me in hand, however, and coached me. Little by little, I have learned not to make the worst mistakes I used to make.


Is the Food for Peace program really anything new? Haven't we been sending food to other countries for many years?

Yes, we have been sending food, but rather haphazardly. We have not consulted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to discuss ways of distributing food to needy countries without upsetting the economy of their neighbors. We have not found out how we could grow food that would have more value in other parts of the world. We have just tried to dispose of our surpluses, which is not the way to go about solving the food problems of the world. Under the present Secretary of Agriculture, however, real changes are coming about, and plans for the future are being made in a much more systematic way.


How do you feel about feather-bedding, the union practice of requiring the presence of a given number of people on certain jobs, whether or not there is anything for these people to do?

I don't like it at all. I think it is bad for workers and bad for employers.


What do you think is the most important difference in principle between the Democratic and Republican Parties today?

I think the difference is the same as it has always been. The Democrats are initiators. They are not afraid to try something new. They start new programs. Sometimes these fail, but more often they prove to be good. The programs are then taken over by the Republicans, who announce they will run them better than the Democrats have done, which is sometimes the case and sometimes not!


Of all the royal families and heads of state you have visited, which would you say live the most splendidly? Could you give us a little description of the life?

One of the most impressive dinner parties I think I ever attended was in the little Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Behind each chair, there was a beautifully dressed gentleman attendant, and the etiquette of a court was very carefully observed. It was perhaps not as impressive as a dinner I once attended in Windsor Castle, where I particularly enjoyed it when the pipers came in to play. At both functions, we all assembled before our hosts arrived, and they politely went around and greeted us all. At the end of the evening, no one left till he had been bidden good-night by the hosts.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1961

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

McCall's, volume 89, November 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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