If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1962


Can you tell me why Washington, our nation's capital, has remained such a "hick town" culturally? No opera house, no symphony hall, only one rather ancient theater. There are none of the facilities provided by such European capitals as Paris, Rome, and even Moscow.

I can't tell you why it has taken so long; but you will be glad to know that provision of facilities for the performing arts is at last being made in Washington. Congress has designated thirteen acres of land along the Potomac for a National Cultural Center, and a fund-raising drive now is under way to obtain $30,000,000 to build a symphony hall; a theater; and a hall for opera, ballet, and musical comedy.


Don't you think the recent trend toward college professors' spending a great deal of their time and energies in government work will, in the long run, endanger the welfare of the schools that employ them?

Certainly not. It is a great opportunity for our college professors to do work for the government at home, abroad, in the UN, or in other organizations that give them an opportunity for wider observation of the world. Young people need to be made aware of the kind of world they now live in, and nothing could be more helpful than to have contacts with people who have had experience in other than purely academic occupations.


I'm shocked at President Kennedy's statement, a few months ago, that the United States would use nuclear arms to beat off a Soviet attack on Berlin. I always thought we wouldn't resort to nuclear warfare unless we were attacked by the Russians on our own front. Wasn't that a dangerous remark for the President to make?

No. The president was stating a fact that has been common knowledge for a long time! NATO has nuclear arms, which it would most certainly use if the West should ever be attacked by the Soviet Union.


Why is it that so many political candidates—not infrequently, even very successful ones—seem to be badly educated, ungrammatical, and rather vulgar people? I have heard it suggested that the American people want leaders who are "no better than I am."

I cannot agree with your statement. Many of our most successful men have been highly educated. To take just Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt was one of the best-read people I have ever known. Herbert Hoover was an educated man. Woodrow Wilson was a scholar. My own husband was very widely read and highly educated. I think the American people appreciate culture and learning in their leaders. It is all nonsense that they want to have representatives, according to your quote, "no better than I am."


I've read recently that the significant failures in Russia's agricultural program have severely unbalanced the Soviet economy. Do you think that Khrushchev's inability to solve the farm problem would greatly endanger his reputation, both nationally and internationally?

I would not think it would endanger his reputation internationally, since his difficulties can be very well understood by the rest of the world. When people are hungry, they react emotionally, and this might jeopardize his national influence.


When a president's wife travels abroad on her own, as in the recent case of Jacqueline Kennedy's trip to India and Pakistan, how much of the expense is borne by the government and how much is paid from the President's personal income?

I know nothing of Mrs. Kennedy's arrangements for her trip. I can tell you, though, that when it was possible for me to take a trip by commercial airlines and pay my way, my husband always expected me to do so. But when he asked me to represent him in visiting certain areas where only government transportation was available, I was of course obliged to use it. I imagine that this would be the rule that would govern the travel arrangements made by any President's wife.


Do you think there is any chance of Algeria's becoming pro-Communist?

It is always said that it would be extremely difficult for any nation whose religion is predominately Moslem to become a Communist nation. I feel it is possible, however, that the Communists will offer aid, which is needed in Algeria, and unfortunately, there may be sections of the population that may become pro-Communist.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1962

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

McCall's, volume 89, July 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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