If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1962


The association of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack" with the Kennedy family has been highly publicized. Did you and your husband have any such close friends in the performing arts?

From my early youth, I was brought in contact with people in the entertainment world, and my husband and I always knew a certain number of artists. Many of them performed for us and even stayed with us in the White House. To this day, I am always delighted to be with any of my friends or acquaintances in the entertainment field. For example, I have known Frank Sinatra for a long time and have always found him a kind and considerate person.


What is your definition of a liberal?

A liberal, I believe, should have an open mind. He should try to see that there are usually two sides to every question and that both must be considered before a final decision can be made. A liberal must be willing to consider new ideas and to experiment and must never condemn new things just because they are new.


When you attended the funeral of Dag Hammarskj?ld, was it in an official or a private capacity?

I did not attend the funeral, though I was told that an announcement was made on the air that I was going to Sweden, and the same story was later printed in some newspapers. Instead, I attended memorial services in this country, as a private citizen.


When Carmine De Sapio was defeated in the New York Democratic primaries last September, commentators called it the end of Tammany Hall. Do you think that machine domination is actually dead in New York?

There must be a political organization, and the one in New York City happens to be Tammany Hall. No one is trying to destroy this organization. Rather, an effort has been made to control the organization of city and state by one boss. That, I think, was successfully voted down in the last primary election. I hope the Reform Movement will be alert enough to prevent the recurrence of a situation in which one man gives all the orders.


Many people believe that the divorce laws in our states are inconsistent, archaic, and punitive. If they were brought realistically up to date, do you think it would encourage even more divorce? Or do you agree with me that it would simply eliminate some of the inequality, dishonesty, and unnecessary unpleasantness that now attend most divorces?

If a group of responsible and understanding people could go over the divorce laws and make them consistent in all states—and as protective of children as possible—it seems to me they might be able to improve a situation that, at best, is not a happy one.


Each year my children have been in school, the number of holidays and the lengths of their vacations have increased. I personally feel that this is bad for them on two scores. First, it cuts down their learning time; second, it gives them more leisure than they (or, frankly, I) know what to do with. Is it necessary or desirable, I wonder, for children to spend so much time playing and so little working?

Perhaps children's holidays are too frequent and too long. There is so much to learn today that they could profitably use more time in school.


The city of Newburgh, New York, was castigated not long ago for its new welfare code, yet many social workers I know have privately approved of it. Don't you think a city should have the right to determine its own welfare program?

No. Any city has to be subordinate to state standards. It seems to me that some of the things suggested in the Newburgh welfare code were highly unjust, and I am surprised that any social workers really approved of them.


What is your opinion of the Pentagon's pre-censorship of military officers' speeches?

As a matter of security for the country, military officers frequently have to be curtailed in some of their public activities. I don't believe that anyone wants to take away their private rights; but, as military personnel, they must be subject to the rules of security for the country.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1962

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

McCall's, volume 89, January 1962

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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