If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1962


What is your reaction to the Peace Corps postcard incident in Nigeria?

We were particularly naïve not to realize at once that the postcard incident was brought about by an internal political situation. The government of Nigeria never complained about the postcard. It was used by the opposing party, perhaps needled by the Soviets, who seized on this small incident to discredit a project fostered by the party in power. The incident was blown up out of proportion.


I am very disturbed about a recent attitude I have noticed among our suburban doctors. Whenever one of my small children is ill, my family doctor refuses to make a house call—he tells me to give the child some aspirin and bring him to the office. What has happened to the old-time country doctor who ventured out in all kinds of weather, day or night?

We are short on doctors and those we have must work in a way that allows them to cover as many patients as possible. Unless there is a real emergency, they must refuse to pay house calls, because they can see more people in their offices. Doctors are among the most unselfish people in the world, and I am quite sure not one of them would refuse to go out in any kind of weather and at any hour of the day or night if the need were really vital.


Do you see the break between Communist China and Russia as hopeful for the United States?

I doubt if the present break will have massive results now. Naturally, anything that might make the Soviets realize their interests lay more with the West than the Oriental nations could be of value; but it is too early to say how deep or lasting the present rift will prove.


If a national lottery could be organized and administered honestly and fairly, and could produce millions of dollars for hospitals or some other worthy cause, would you be for or against this form of fund raising?

There is a very strong feeling, particularly among religious leaders in this country, that the encouragement of gambling is a bad thing. While these national lotteries do not seem to have some of the disreputable features of other forms of gambling, I would be against having them on a national scale as long as there was a great opposition from groups I respect.


Foreigners have long charged Americans with an overpreoccupation with material things. Just which material things do they object to and why?

I think they object to the fact that we are not always as sensitive as we might be to the need for cultural achievements. We spend, as a nation, more on cosmetics, alcohol, and cigarettes than we do on schools. We are apt to boast not of the remarkable teachers or artists or writers we have, but of our very elaborate plumbing and the innumerable gadgets that make household duties lighter. Raising one's standard of living is not just a matter of material things. It is also a question of appreciation of the mind.


What do you think of Senator Fulbright's proposal that the United States form a "concert of free nations" and base its foreign policy on that rather than on the UN?

Senator Fulbright appears to have reached the point where he feels that working with those who hold different ideas from our own is not possible. This, I think, is unfortunate, since the concept of the UN was to bring together people who hold different ideas and try to find certain areas, particularly the peace of the world, in which they could agree. I do not think we should abandon this idea, or the United Nations.


I have heard that you are opposed to the building of individual bomb shelters. Is it because you feel that they would not be effective or because you believe that this sort of preparation brings us closer to war?

I believe in doing what the government asks us to do, but I also believe in asking the government to give really good and responsible direction. I think, like all measures of national security, a plan for shelters should come under the direction of the Army. We could be given specific directions for those who wish to build their own shelters; but, actually, states and municipalities should be prepared to care for the people of their localities. There are intricate questions involved in the protection of food and water and air filtration. The government has not yet given us the kind of direction that I think we have a right to expect.


With all the appointments you must have in a day, it would seem certain that you must keep very close to a schedule. Have you developed any techniques for tactfully terminating an interview when a visitor lingers beyond his or her allotted time?

I usually tell people who come to the office on business how much time is allotted to them. At the end of the time, I close by telling them what I can or cannot do, thanking them for coming, and standing up! If people come to my home and no special time limit has been specified, I tell them what I have to do next or that somebody else is expected. This usually works, and I keep more or less within the limits of my schedule.

< Previous Column 1962 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1962

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

McCall's, volume 89, February 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC