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Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady, talks to Wallace about Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Republicans, Democrats, the Soviet Union, Westbrook Pegler, her son's relationship with Dominican leader Rafael Trujillo, race, and garlic pills.

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Guest: Eleanor Roosevelt

WALLACE: Good evening. Tonight my guest is a woman who has been called the "First Lady of the World". She is Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. I shall ask Mrs. Roosevelt to talk about Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, Westbrook Pegler, and garlic pills. What you're about to see is unrehearsed, uncensored. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris.


WALLACE: And now to our story. At the age of seventy four Eleanor Roosevelt has seen a lot of the world and the world has seen a lot of her. Tonight I shall ask Mrs. Roosevelt about some of the most pressing world issues, about America's leadership or lack of it, about the Soviet menace and indications that we may be losing our strength as a nation to resist it. Later in the program we'll talk with Mrs. Roosevelt about her code of values and her family life. Mrs. Roosevelt, first of all let me ask you this: You've seen great leaders like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, your own husband. I wonder if in capsule fashion you can tell me what qualities enabled these men to shape the course of history as they did, what did they have that made them the leaders they were?

ROOSEVELT: I never met Mahatma Gandhi, but, I think everyone felt they knew him even if they hadn't met him. I think one thing they had in common, all these men, was great courage, both spiritual, mental and physical courage. Mahatma Gandhi I would say had perhaps a greater spiritual quality whereas Winston Churchill had besides the courage, ability and above everything else, the ability to put into words what his people felt so that he could always lead them. And my own husband I think had great patience, which you need in a democracy because you have to come to do fundamental things, you have to have the patience to have people educated; and then I think he had a deep interest in human beings as human beings.

WALLACE: ... What about intellectual capacity and physical vigor? How important do you think those two qualities were in these people?

ROOSEVELT: ... I think it's important to have both. Of course Mahatma Gandhi you might say did not have so much physical vigor but he certainly seemed to have extraordinary resistance, which perhaps is rather different from physical vigor.

WALLACE: Yes... And intellectual capacity?

ROOSEVELT: Oh, I think they all had intellectual capacity. All of them, perhaps in different ways but they all had intellectual capacity.

WALLACE: Well now quite candidly from all of the things that you've talked about now, how do you think that Dwight Eisenhower measures up?

ROOSEVELT: Well, that's of course a very difficult thing to say because I barely know the President. I've seen him as a General when he was in Germany, I've seen him in London as a General. I would say that he was a diplomat. I would say that he was very good at carrying out things that had been planned and probably a fine General, though he was of course in the field under General Marshall's general direction. -- uh. From the standpoint of intellectual capacity, I am no judge except that I would say that he probably had less what I would call intellectual interest in a lar-- great variety of subjects than either, again I can't say about Mahatma Gandhi, but that either Winston Churchill or my husband had.

WALLACE: ...I ask you this -- what I'm trying to do now is to find out about our present leadership. President Eisenhower in two or three years now will no longer be our President. Can you name for me, Mrs. Roosevelt, any leading Democrats or Republicans who are in the same league with a Churchill or a Gandhi or a Roosevelt, who have the stature to lead our free world against the threat of Communism?

ROOSEVELT: Well, at the present time I don't think it would be fair to name any particular people because ... it is very often the opportunity which brings out the qualities in a man and most of the leaders on the Democratic side have not had the opportunity to meet the responsibilities and to show us whether they have the leadership qualities that are needed at the present time. Many of them have shown ability and certain different qualities but we have not yet seen, I don't think, anyone in a position...

WALLACE: ...uhmmmmmmm...

ROOSEVELT: ...and to show whether they had full leadership quality that the present day seems to require. Well on the Republican side of course the only one who stands out is Mr. Nixon, and he has made no mistakes of late. He's been extremely careful. I would say he had ability, how much conviction is another question.

WALLACE: Well, you mentioned Mr. Nixon in your column in McCalls magazine in January of Nineteen fifty-six. You wrote about Republican leaders and about Mr. Nixon you said the following: "Richard Nixon would be the least attractive. I know that griven-- that given great responsibility, men sometimes change" which in a sense is what you're just saying. You say, "I know that given great responsibility men sometimes change, but Mr. Nixon's Presidency would worry me", you said. Why do you reserve this special criticism for Mr. Nixon?

ROOSEVELT: Because I think that in great crises you need to have deep rooted convictions and I have a feeling from the kind of campaigns that I have watched Mr. Nixon in in the past that his convictions are not very strong.

WALLACE: But you do admit that over the past year in particular Mr. Nixon seems to have changed, possibly to have grown with the times?

ROOSEVELT: I... have no idea whether he has grown. I would say that he was a very intelligent person and that he had a very clear idea of what he wanted and had conducted himself wisely to achieve the ends he desires.

WALLACE: By the same token would you have said that Harry Truman had shown great conviction prior to his being thrown into the Presidency?

ROOSEVELT: No, I would not have. Again I did not know him very well before. I would say -- uh -- of Mr. Truman that he rose to the responsibilities thrust upon him in a in a manner which was very remarkable, really, and that his big decisions very likely are going to mean that he will go down in history as one of our very good Presidents.

WALLACE: With -- with really insufficient background to expect that he would have acted that way?

ROOSEVELT: Yes, quite certainly.

WALLACE: Well, now I'm not obviously asking you to endorse any politician here and now but the fact is that within the next ten years or so the fate of the free world may very well be decided and the President of the United States may play a major role. As a Democrat then, I put this to you, do you see even the beginnings of the makings of a Washington or a Lincoln or a Wilson or a Roosevelt in Jack Kennedy or Stuart Symington or Robert Meyner or Soapy Williams, who are the four men most talked about as potential Democratic presidents?

ROOSEVELT: I -- I cannot tell you in -- in -- what will happen in the next two years. At the moment the only person I see those beginnings in is Adlai Stevenson who has twice run for the Presidency and who has said he would not run again.

WALLACE: Why do you feel -- what lack was there in Mr. Stevenson that caused the American people to reject him not once but twice and reject him more severely, if you will, the second time than they did the first?

ROOSEVELT: Well, I think partly it is not so much a lack in him as it was a hero worship of the President, and perhaps a little bit the McCarthy Period that we were still close to, but also in him a --perhaps an inability to quite put the things he believes in in the language or in the emotional way that will come home to the average human being.

WALLACE: I think possibly that you'd go along with me when I say that it will be difficult should Mr. Stevenson decide to run again...

ROOSEVELT: Very difficult.

WALLACE: ...to sell the Democratic Party on nominating him once again.....

ROOSEVELT: Very difficult.

WALLACE: ...In view --in view of this, let me read to you from something written by the New York Post Columnist William Shannon on November Eleventh. Writing of two of the so-called glamour boys of the Democratic Party, he said as follows: He said about Jack Kennedy's qualifications as a Presidential hopeful, quote "Kennedy at forty is utterly without executive experience. He's never bossed any operation bigger than his own Congressional office" and of New Jersey's Governor Bob Meyner, Shannon wrote:" Meyner at forty-nine is debarred not by the thinness of his experience but by its provincial character. Trenton, New Jersey cannot by itself be a training ground for a world statesman." And yet I've -- we have to agree in all conscience that these are the men that the Democrats are talking about right now, Mrs. Roosevelt --men who would have to sit down opposite Nikita Khrushchev.

ROOSEVELT: I think -- I -- I don't know but I think we can among them find one that can sit opposite Nikita Khrushchev. But I think the thing we must look for actually is a growth in our people and in whoever comes in a quality (COUGHS) of courage to tell our people just what world conditions are.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a bald question. Uh -- Do you think Walter Reuther would make a good President of the United States?

ROOSEVELT: I have never thought of it but I have a high regard for Walter Reuther's intelligence, and given the opportunity and the responsibility he might because he has a knowledge of -- of the world's peoples; he's been around the whole world as a worker and has worked in almost every country of the world, and that is a good background for knowing about people and countries. I have never really given this much thought before, but I think he might be uh a person able to grow, and who ever takes it has got to be able to grow.

WALLACE: You talk about the necessity for the American people to grow. Now what seem to be, if we are to believe a good deal of what we read, what seem to be the main preoccupations of the American people today? Bigger and better tail fins on automobiles; westerns on television? Sex-drenched movies? Fur coats; push buttons; alcoholism continues to increase, our mental institutions are full. Perhaps it's a grim -- a too grim picture, but nonetheless a reasonably accurate picture. When we talked with architect Frank Lloyd Wright a few weeks back he told us that because of all this the United States is in grave danger of declining as a world power, as a civilization, and he underlines that in his current book, Testament. Do you think that Mr. Wright is completely wrong, Mrs. Roosevelt?

ROOSEVELT: I -- I think that estimate of the American people is completely wrong. I feel quite sure that what the American people lack is knowledge. I feel quite sure that the American people, if they have knowledge and leadership, can meet any crisis just as well as they met it over and over again in the past. I can remember the cries of horror, when my husband said we had to have fifty thousand airplanes in a given period, but we had them and the --the difference was that the people were told what the reason was and why and I have complete faith in the American people's ability if they know and if they have leadership. No one can move without some leadership.

WALLACE: And for the time being you feel that we are bereft of leadership?


WALLACE: During the depression your husband said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Don't you think let me put it this way, do you think that it's that simple today? Do we have anything concrete to fear from the Russians?

ROOSEVELT: Oh, yes, we have a -- to fear the fact that they have a definite objective, around which they've built their whole policy. We have met crises as we came to them, but I would find it hard to answer the question of what our future objective was for the world and how we were building our policy to achieve it and that's what I think we need in order to meet the Communist objective. I think that is something we have to fear. They have a distinct objective and they have patience in planning and they plan a long time ahead, and also they are dealing with a situation where everything that comes to a people is better than it was before, so that they have a constant feeling that they are moving forward.

WALLACE: Is it possible, Mrs. Roosevelt, that Communism, State Socialism any way is the wave of the future and that Capitalism is on its way out?

ROOSEVELT: Well, that is what Mr. Khrushchev says. I don't know much about Capitalism, but I do know about Democracy and freedom, and if Capitalism may change in many, many ways, I'm not really very much interested in Capitalism. I'm enormously interested in freedom and retaining the right to have whatever economy we want and to shape it as we want and a having sufficient Democracy so that the people -- actually hold their Government in their own hands.

WALLACE: Then you do not think -- if we wanted it that it would be a catastrophe if Socialism came peacefully to the United States as it has come to other nations in the world?

ROOSEVELT: To a certain extent I don't see any real need for socialism in the United States immediately, but things change and it may be that there will come a need for partial changes in our economy. I don't know I'm not an economist and I'm not a financier. But I --I'm not worried by that side of it. I'm intensely anxious to preserve the freedom that gives you the right to think and to act and to talk as you please. That I think is essential to happiness and the life of the people.

WALLACE: Mrs. Roosevelt, in just a moment I'd like to get your reaction to the charges made by perhaps your most severe critic, Westbrook Pegler. He once wrote this about you, he said, "This woman is a political force of enormous ambitions. I believe she is a menace, unscrupulous as to truth, vain and cynical--all with a pretense of exaggerated kindness and human feeling which deceives millions of gullible persons. "In a moment I would like to get your opinion, your reaction to Westbrook Pegler's charge and your opinion of Mr. Pegler, and we'll get the answers to those questions in just a minute.


WALLACE: Now then, Mrs. Roosevelt, your reaction to that charge by Westbrook Pegler, I don't feel that it's necessary to repeat it, I'm sure that you heard it the first time around.

ROOSEVELT: Well, it seems to me a little exaggerated let us say, no one could be quite as bad as all that, and--uh--as far as--as--uh--political ambition goes I think that's rather answered itself because I've never run for office and I've never asked for an office of any kind. So I can't have much political ambition, but--uh--I can see--uh-- that Mr. Pegler probably--uh--probably believes all these things and ah -- I'm not -- I suppose one does things unconsciously that makes you seem like that, and perhaps-- perhaps I do seem like that to him, and I think it must be terrible to hate as many things as Mr. Pegler hates, and I -- I would be unhappy, I think, and therefore I am afraid that he's unhappy, and I'm sorry for him, because after all, we all grow older and we all have to live with ourselves, and I think that must sometimes be difficult for Mr. Pegler.

WALLACE: Mrs. Roosevelt, I am sure that you understand the sense in which I put this question to you, but I think that you will agree that a good many people hated your husband, they even hated you.

ROOSEVELT: Oh yes, a great many do still.

WALLACE: Why? Why?

ROOSEVELT: Well, if you take stands in any way and people feel that you have any success in--in--a following, why those who disagree with you are going to feel very strongly about it.

WALLACE: But there is more than just disagreement involved. There are people who disagree with Mr. Eisenhower, and yet they do not hate him. There was - I lived in the Middle West for a good many years while your husband was President, and there was a real core of more than just disagreements there.

ROOSEVELT: --No, there was a real core of hatred, the people who would call him "that man" and the people who would gladly -- I remember one man who rejoiced actually, when he died. But ah I-- I suppose that is just a feeling that certain people had, that he was destroying the thing that they held dear and felt touched them, and naturally you react to that with hatred, and I suppose that's what brought it about, they still fight him I mean I sometimes think that campaigns are largely fought on my husband rather than on the actual person who's running and as far as I was concerned, I think mine was largely again for that same reason, -- I was touching something which to some people seemed a-- sacred thing they had to keep hold of and a major part of my criticism has been on the negro question, of course, and a -- I've had many others, but that is the major part. And I think that that is quite natural, because for some people that seems to be destroying something that to them is very dear.

WALLACE: One of the things the press leaped on last year was the fact that your son, Franklin, acted as legal representative in the United States for the Dominican dictator Trujillo. As a crusader for Democracy and for freedom yourself, how did you feel about your son's working for Trujillo?

ROOSEVELT: Well, I asked my son about a -- what he was doing, and he told me he was representing the Government, not Mr. Trujillo personally ;that he felt that it was a legitimate thing for him to do as a lawyer and that he was not doing it for any political reasons but for pure business reasons as a lawyer. I do not, as a rule, interfere, and I did not feel that I was a entitled to interfere in this case with my children. I leave them to do, after they are grown, what they think right, as I think all young people have a right to do.

WALLACE: Do I detect then, that you would have been just as happy had he not represented Trujillo?

ROOSEVELT: As it turned out, I think it might have been wiser, yes, but that is not I -- I do not hold my judgment above his, he was doing what he felt was legitimate to do and I think he had a right to make his own mind up on that subject.

WALLACE: And now the final question, the one that I promised at the beginning that I was going to ask, and that is about garlic pills.


WALLACE: I understand, that you, I don't know if you do still, but at one time in the not too distant past you ate garlic pills and I'd like to know why and how they worked out.

ROOSEVELT: My doctor told me to take them to help my memory. It doesn't help my memory much, but nevertheless that is what I was given them for.

WALLACE: And do you still?


WALLACE: In spite of the fact, that it hasn't helped your memory?

ROOSEVELT: Well, that's of course age. You gave me one more year and at my age, ah ah-- you don't like to add to your years, because they come too quickly anyway.

WALLACE: It's only 73?

ROOSEVELT: I'm really only 73.

WALLACE: Only 73? I beg your pardon.

ROOSEVELT: But, that doesn't matter in many ways, only that they go so fast when you get to be my age and I suppose that it's that that gives poor memory, not the garlic pills.

WALLACE: Mrs. Roosevelt, I thank you for taking the time for coming and talking with us this evening.

ROOSEVELT: Thank you.

WALLACE: Because she will fight courageously for what she believes, Eleanor Roosevelt has had to pay a certain price, bitter criticism, a lack of privacy, the infighting of partisan politics, but Eleanor Roosevelt has also reaped what must be the most satisfying of all rewards, the respect and with it the affection of hundreds of millions of persons around the world. I'll bring you a rundown on next week's interview with a well-known television personality in just a moment.


WALLACE: Next week, we go after a double-barreled story: -- the impact on every one of us of book censorship and television mediocrity. We'll get our story from Bennet Cerf, you see him behind me, a veteran panelist on "What's My Line" and one of the leading book-publishers in America. If you're curious to know what Bennett Cerf thinks is wrong with television or why he says that book censorship imperils our right to read and think as we choose and what Mr. Cerf means when he calls himself "a ham", we'll go after these stories next week, until then for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace, good night.

ANNOUNCER: The Mike Wallace Interview is brought to you by Philip Morris, Incorporated, the Quality House.


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