If You Ask Me
McCall's, February 1950
Question: Do you think the President of the United States should be elected by direct vote of the people?
Yes, on the whole, because I do not see why at the present time we need to continue the old system of the electoral college. Therefore, if I am given a chance to vote on the subject I shall vote for the direct placing of the names of the candidates for President on the ballot rather than having to vote for electors.
Question: Was any one of the White House rooms more interesting than any other to the visitors who went through it while you were there?
I think the East Room was always of great interest to visitors because they could visualize entertainments that were held there. In addition I think that those who came up on the second floor were especially interested in the rooms occupied by Lincoln, which are marked as to the historical purposes for which they were used. The room in the basement known as the China Room, where there are certain exhibits of things that have been in the White House for a long time and which belonged to different administrations, was always of great interest to visitors.
Question: What was your favorite book when you were junior-high-school age?
I cannot remember that I had any one particular book which was my favorite when I was a girl. I read avidly, especially in the summer, when I was more or less alone and had a large and well-stocked library to choose from. Some of the books I read I imagine are hardly ever in the hands of young people today. For instance, I remember with great enthusiasm a long book called Thaddeus of Warsaw, which was a historical novel touching on one phase of Poland's efforts to remain a free nation. I was particularly interested at that age in Dickens' novels, and I remember The Old Curiousity Shop, Oliver Twist and Dombey and Son as being favorite ones. There were two books which I remember crying copious tears over at that age, and I still enjoy them very much. One was called Misunderstood and the other, a French book, Sans Famille. Now I would undoubtedly think them very sentimental, foolish books to allow a rather lonely child to read. No one book, however, stands out in my mind as being above any other book as a favorite at that age.
Question: I have heard that the social security laws make it more expensive for employers to hire old people than young ones. Is this true?
This same fear has been expressed as regards workmen's compensation, which is the earliest form of what we now call social security in this country. Most experts now believe that while it may take longer for older people to recover from injuries which they sustain at work, they do not sustain as many injuries as younger people because they are more careful. Therefore, these experts believe the net result is that it is less expensive for employers to hire old people than young ones.
As regards unemployment insurance, which was the next form of social security to go into effect in this country, it may be argued that older persons who are laid off have more difficulty finding another job than young people, so that an employer's contribution rate might be slightly higher. However, offsetting this possibility is that the turnover among older workers is usually less, so that the cost of breaking in new workers is reduced. Moreover, many times older workers possess greater skill and are more careful than younger workers, so that the quality of their output is higher.
In the case of old-age insurance, which is the latest form of social security, there is no question that this enables employers to hire older workers without the danger of incurring greater expenses in providing retirement benefits. This is so well recognized that employers as well as labor organizations generally support the extension and improvement of our federal old-age survivors insurance law.
Question: While passing people on the street have you ever seen the face of some stranger that you will never forget?
Oh, I think one frequently sees faces on the street or in the subway or in any public conveyance which remain in one's mind either because of their beauty or, sad to say, because of the evil that is in them. I have watched people's faces a great deal and often see a face that remains before me as a picture for some time.
Question: What are the disadvantages, if any, of a democratic government such as ours?
One of the disadvantages is that reforms which are necessary come slowly. However, perhaps this is not entirely a disadvantage, because it arises from the fact that not just a few individuals but the great mass of the people must be educated to understand and desire reform. When that happens and the reform comes about, the support for it is on a very firm foundation which, though it may seem to some of us one of the drawbacks of democracy, is perhaps in the end a strength. It is undeniably true that a benevolent despot can quickly bring about better conditions and avoid suffering for the people as a whole, but one cannot always count on a despot being benevolent! However, the one thing I think we can count on is the slow but sure education of the people in their own interests.
Question: What person or nation do you think is making the outstanding contribution to the peace of the world today?
That is a very difficult question to answer, because no one nation by itself could succeed in keeping the peace of the world today. I like to think that our nation, through its willingness to help other nations get back on their own feet in an economic way, has made a real contribution to world peace. But as I look upon the United Nations as the only available machinery we have through which to work for peace, I am constrained to feel that no one contribution would be of much value alone, and therefore the only way we move forward is through the cooperation of the member nations in the agencies that create an atmosphere in which peace can grow.