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January 20, 1939
“WASHINGTON, Thursday—…The State of Washington provides me with an interesting letter and a newspaper clipping this morning. My correspondent asks that I answer her question in my column. This is the question: “I am enclosing a clipping. Is this called free speech?” The clipping is from a paper called “The Statesmen Index”, of December 30th, and is headed: “The Poet’s Corner.” The name of the poem is “Rejected.” The gist of it is that the present President of the United States “came to the gates of Hell and the Devil answered the bell.” All the faults of the Administration come in for a rhymne, including personal things such as his wife, and finally he is rejected, and these are the closing lines:
At last he said: “Let’s make it clear,
You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here,
For once you linger with the mob
I’ll have to hunt myself a job.”
Strange to say the author is, “Unknown.”
Certainly, Madame Correspondent, this is freedom of speech. Anyone in this country has a right to state his or her opinion about anyone else. Even if you disagree with the opinion you must uphold this right, because that same right allows you to express your opinion freely as well. You are worried because you were taught to respect the office of the President of the United States regardless of politics, but this is not an attack on the office or even on the Presidency. It is an attack on the man and perhaps it is better to have more freedom and less enforced respect.”
January 2, 1951
“HYDE PARK, Monday—I have just had an amusing, anonymous letter, and I am going to reproduce it here because I think it is a good note on which to start the New Year. My correspondent writes:
“My dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Don’t you think it is a mistake to refer to yourself as a very old lady? How do you think a person eighty years old reacts? The impression is a poor one. One does not think of you in any age bracket, but as a self-disciplined woman…so please in the future forget your age and just be yourself. No need to sign this. My answer will come if in your talks you just speak as Eleanor Roosevelt—the Invincible. Thank you.”
I want to thank this anonymous correspondent because it had never occurred to me that it would be discouraging to anybody when I said I was a very old lady. I realize there are many older people. Perhaps, therefore, my correspondent is right, and I will heed this warning. I wish I were “invincible.” That means you have no weak moments, but I am afraid there are very few of us these days who don’t occasionally have them.”
September 18, 1941
“WASHINGTON, Wednesday—I received a letter in my mail yesterday, signed with an assumed name. The lady is much annoyed with the President because she has been told that he has been holding a bill on his desk, which happens to affect a particular situation in her own family. She has been told this over a long period, and feels that an injustice is being done because the President has not acted.
I have no idea what the particular provisions of this bill are, nor what the reasons are which have delayed the final signing which would make it effective, but I have learned from long experience that there are always reasons. No matter how much I may be interested in some particular case, there are invariably a great many cases which make further consideration necessary for one reason or another.
So, “Judy Grady,” whoever you may be, I’ll mention the case you are interested in to the President, but I doubt if it is “obstinacy” on his part which is holding up the final decision. I hope your “womanly spleen” won’t lead you into a course of action which will defeat the things you really care about. You happen to be annoyed over a serious situation which must, however, in the long run be considered from the point of view of “the many” rather than from the point of view of “the one.””
March 20, 1941
“WASHINGTON, Wednesday —…Sometimes I think a few people are becoming a trifle hysterical. To bear this out, I shall quote here a few lines from a letter which I have just received from a lady. There is nothing peculiar about this letter. The writer just assails the President and the present Administration and, incidentally, me, for starving the little children of the democracies of Europe. It demands a negotiated peace with Hitler and says it is no more possible to restore the conquered nations in Europe to their freedom than it would be to restore to England her original Thirteen Colonies.
She assures me that she is of British descent, with Huguenot blood running in her veins, that she is a Colonial Dame, and a member of the Order of the Descendants of Colonial Governors. She even dares to identify herself further as having four Colonial Governors of Carolina on her badge.
All this to prove that she is no Nazi-lover, but for America first and that she does not wish to police the world. She ends with her personal, not very flattering, appraisal of the President.
Nothing in this letter, of course, is very odd. Just from my point of view, it is untrue. There is no reason in the world, however, why she should not express her opinions, no reason why she should not write the letter and no one would question her right to do so. But here comes the hysterical line: “I dare not sign my name for fear of a concentration camp.” I haven’t yet heard of any, have you?”