If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1962


Periodically, there is a much-publicized investigation of the activities of someone who has reaped huge illegal profits, apparently through bribing government officials. Several years ago, it was the Goldfine investigation; recently the Billie Sol Estes probe. It seems reasonable to assume that for every such case that comes to light, there are many that don't. Do you have any suggestions for cleaning up this corruption?

This type of corruption exists not only in government but in the business world as well. The only way I know to change the situation is through education. The sooner our young people are taught that service to the community, to the family, and to our country can bring as much recognition as material success, the sooner we will see a change in standards and values. When one discovers the pleasures that come through service to others, the desire to snatch at money and power, obtaining them by any means whatsoever, may be every much lessened.


Would you approve of combining the Army, Navy, and Air Force into one all-inclusive service?

I would not approve of such a combination. I have always felt that there were differences between the services and that we should recognize them. Certainly, functions such as procurement might be combined; but each branch of the services has its own particular character and pride, its own special traditions, uniforms, music, and even its own heroes; and some type of friendly competition among them is probably important for greater efficiency and esprit de corps.


Recently, the New York Herald Tribune received simultaneous cancellations of all subscriptions held by members of the White House staff. Clearly, this constituted an expression of disapproval of the Republican paper's coverage of administration policies and activities. Doesn't it seem rather ill-advised of the administration to refuse to read what its critics have to say?

I don't think this cancellation meant that the administration has stopped reading what its critics have to say. It was perhaps an expression of the feeling that, on certain policies, there had been unfair coverage. My husband was always careful to read the opposition; but if he decided that a particular columnist was predictable in the position he would take, he sometimes felt it was a waste of time to read that person's column every day or week.


Do you think it is possible for anyone to rid himself completely of a prejudice he has grown up with? Have you personally overcome any prejudice that may have been imposed on you in your early life?

I cannot remember ever having any racial or religious prejudice forced on me either by environment or by precept or example. As I have grown older, I have worked closely with questions where prejudice plays a very great part; but my own difficulties have rarely arisen from prejudice. They come much more frequently, I believe, from the natural tendency to like or dislike an individual. I have often found, however, that someone I disliked at first sight, I later learned to like as I came to know him well. It was lack of knowledge and understanding that created my first feeling of personal antipathy.


I understand that the New York World's Fair Commission requested permission to invite Communist China to participate in the event and that the President refused the request. Do you think this was wise?

I don't see how this could have been fulfilled. We have no diplomatic relations with Communist China. How, therefore, would arrangements have been made for participation? I should be very much surprised if the commission made such a request.


I have heard it said before that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, the American wish for popularity, our desire to have everyone "love" us, makes us weak and vacillating. Do you think there is any truth in this statement?

I think we have to realize that it is much more important to have the respect of other peoples than to have their love. We sometimes seem to believe that just because we give material things to aid others, they must of necessity like us. This is, of course, untrue. Liking comes when a sufficient number of people know one another and have real understanding and enjoyment in their contacts. But in dealing with other nations, our government should primarily seek to command respect for the United States.


I understand that you are chairman of the President's Committee on the Status of Women. Can we women who work and look forward to any legislation in the near future that will eliminate the discrimination against us? Do you think we'll ever achieve job equality with men?

I think it is quite possible that women will achieve job equality with men in all but a few specialized jobs. There is already under way an inquiry into the civil-service system, which should be valuable to women.


How do your activities in the UN now differ from those when Mr. Truman first appointed you a delegate?

Originally, I was a full delegate. Now I am, at my own request, just an adviser. I attend meetings when I can, but I have no obligations for committee work or even attendance at General Assembly meetings of the United Nations.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1962

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

McCall's, volume 89, September 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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