Franklin Delano Roosevelt at 130 Years: “His Giant Shadow Still Dominates American Politics” January 30, 2012

Yesterday, I made my annual FDR “birthday” pilgrimage to Hyde Park, NY, the birthplace of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. On January 30th, one hundred and thirty years ago Franklin Roosevelt, a large healthy 10 pound baby, was born to Sara Delano Roosevelt, the 2nd wife of James Roosevelt, a Hudson River Valley patrician. His mother, who at 26 years old at the time of her marriage was half the age of her husband, who was actually her 6th cousin, was warned by her doctor to never risk pregnancy again. James Roosevelt, who was a Democrat and was from a different branch of the large Roosevelt family tree from his cousin Theodore Roosevelt, was born in 1828 and passed away in 1900 after a number of years declining health. Sara Roosevelt would outlive her husband by forty one years and was a critical influence in the development of her only child.

Springwood, the home where Franklin Roosevelt was born, was enlarged significantly in 1915. Franklin D. Roosevelt, together with his mother Sara, undertook a final major enlargement and remodeling of the home. This was done in order to accommodate his growing family, but also to create an environment for entertaining his growing circle of political associates. Roosevelt contributed many ideas for the new design, but his mother commissioned the design work to the firm of Hoppin and Koen from New York City. The size of the house was more than doubled by adding two large fieldstone wings (designed by Roosevelt), a tower, and a third story with a flat roof. The clapboard exterior of the house was replaced with stucco and most of the porch was replaced with a fieldstone terrace with a balustrade and a small columned portico around the entrance. These alterations gave the exterior of the house the look of a mansion in Colonial Revival Style. The interior retained much of the layout of the old family home and was designed primarily with housing Roosevelt’s growing collections of books, paintings, stamps, and coins. The famous historian, Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison said, “If FDR had never been elected president, he would have been famous as a collector.” The remodeling work was finished within one year in 1916. Roosevelt also changed the appearance of the surrounding land by extensive planting of trees. Between 1911, when the large scale planting started and Roosevelt’s death in 1945, more than 400,000 trees were planted on the estate. Eventually, large portions of the estate were turned into an experimental forestry station under an agreement with the Forestry Department of Syracuse University. In fact, in an early 20th Century US Census, Roosevelt identified his profession as a tree planter. He always regarded, “the big house” on the Hudson as his home, and it was here in the Rose Garden that he was buried on April 15, 1945.

This January 30th, it was a beautiful bright day in Hyde Park, with temperatures in the mid 30’s. As usual many local citizens gathered for a ceremony that is held in the same Rose Garden where he was buried almost 67 years ago. The garden is, of course, still sleeping in its mid-winter form and the guests, many of them elderly made their way to their seats of honor. West Point Cadets and a US Army firing party were all at attention as wreaths were placed by the Town of Hyde Park, the American Legion, the Jewish War Veterans, the Chamber of Commerce, the March of Dimes, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association, The Eleanor Roosevelt center at Val-Kill, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the FDR Presidential Library, the National Park Service, the Roosevelt Family, and the President of the United States. The invocation and the benediction were given by the Reverend Charles Kramer, Rector of Saint James Episcopal Church, Hyde Park, where the Roosevelts worshipped. The honor guard honored the late president with a 21 gun salute.

The main speaker of the afternoon, Ms. Aileen Rohr, the Supervisor of the Town of Hyde Park, was introduced by Ms. Francescka Macsali Urbin, the Supervisory Park Ranger. Ms. Rohr spoke movingly about the critical impact the Roosevelts have had on Hyde Park. She recalled her parents connection with the town and how there were many townspeople who still had fond memories of the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Ms. Rohr cited the courage that the president exhibited and the pain he endured. She told the gathering of a few hundred onlookers, that the president, who was born to privilege, had a sense of exceptional concern for the less fortunate. She spoke of his call to service, his efforts to stop the panic, confront and end the Depression, his great leadership in the late war and .his dedication to his responsibilities to the very end of his life. It was a moving and well-crafted tribute to one of the world’s greatest citizens.

In this day of cynicism and revisionism, we seem to be debating the same issues that faced us in the Progressive Era, the halcyon days of the 1920’s, the middle years of the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution of the 1980’s and the Tea Party insurgency of 2010. Again, it is, in my view, couched in the phrase of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Greed versus need.” The “right wing” of this country always seems to trash the rights of the many for the rights of the few, by hiding behind “original intent.” Again, the Framers had no understanding of our modern world that would. As Franklin Roosevelt said, in his speech accepting re-nomination to the Presidency, on June 27, 1936, “out of this modern civilization, economic royalists carved new dynasties…the royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business.” Also, in his Second Inaugural, on January 20, 1937, the late President said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Professor William Leuchtenburg, one of America’s greatest historians, wrote in his book, In the Shadow of FDR, that Adolph Berle, in May of 1945, said, “Great men have two lives: one which occurs while they work on this earth; a second which begins at the day of their death and continues as long as their ideas and conceptions remain powerful.” More that two decades later, in 1967, Time-Life correspondent Hugh Sidey, wrote of a White House gathering that drew a number of dignitaries to honor FDR. He said, “You could stand on this Tuesday afternoon in 1967 and look out over the faces in the East Room of the White House and suddenly understand that Franklin Roosevelt still owned Washington. His ideas prevailed, his men endured!” With that in mind, and now almost 45 years later after that remark, and 28 years after the publishing of his book, the men have passed away, but it seems FDR’s ideas have endured.

PS: Tomorrow, in my weekly broadcast of The Advocates, I will address what Professor Leuchtenburg, eloquently wrote in the 1980’s. In my 25th show on FDR, the New Deal and Eleanor Roosevelt since I first hosted Jonathan Alter in July of 2007, I will discuss these issues with Professor Terry Golway, author of Together We Cannot Fail. Professor Golway’s operative word is “together” and that is something we sorely lack in today’s political atmosphere in Washington. It seems to me that this election will be a choice between FDR’s vision of a compassionate America versus the Social Darwinism of “might makes right,” and ”to the victor belongs the spoils”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by admin. Bookmark the permalink.

About admin

A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at http://advocates-wvox.com. Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel rjg727@comcast.net Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>