FDR on WVOX, Celebrating President's Day February 19, 2008

FDR on WVOX Celebrating

Presidents/Washington’s Birthday

February 19, 2008

Richard J. Garfunkel


Though many believe that this day is now officially named Presidents’ Day that is not true. The law, HR 15951, which was signed in 1968, officially shifted Washington’s Birthday to the 3rd Monday in February. It came into affect on January 1, 1971, during the administration of the late and unlamented Richard Nixon, who named it Presidents’ Day. Well the official bill to change the name to Washington-Lincoln Day failed in Congress, and even though it is familiarly known as Presidents’ Day. I was invited to speak on Bob Marrone’s Show on, not only one of our greatest Presidents, but also one of our greatest men, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


FDR was the single greatest elected politician in modern history and was able to overcome the devastating physical challenge of Polio. He was a vigorous man who overcame a lifetime of sickness. He had wonderful mentors, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith, and Woodrow Wilson. He took something from all of them, and was smart enough to avoid the problems they all experienced. He shaped his own destiny, built the new Democratic Party, halted the panic that paralyzed America after for years of Depression, created the New Deal, and led America towards recovery. He was labor’s greatest friend, created social safety nets for the average American. He restored faith in the market places, the banks and government. He created the Social Security, and rebuilt America’s devastated middle class. He was one of our greatest conservationists and he brought electricity to parts of rural America that had been ignored for 200 years.

He rallied the public, instilled great respect from the world at large, and inspired great enemies and opposition. He took on the Fascists when America wanted no part of that fight, created the United Nations, and built the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Through his actions at the Atlantic Conference in Argentia Bay, he put forth his vision of the world based on the “Four Freedoms.” His vision is the vision of today’s modern world; his vision is of the world community pulling together for the common good. FDR had to withstand an “American First” style isolationism that cut across almost all social and political barriers and subgroups. FDR had to use his unequalled mastery of the America political landscape to, on one hand, re-arm America, and on the other hand, battle the limitations of our Neutrality Laws and the passion of people like Charles Lindbergh, who were his most vocal critics.

FDR mobilized the American economy in an unprecedented way, as we fought an effective and remarkable two-ocean war. He selected and appointed our excellent overall leadership with his Joint Chief’s Command, led by Admiral William D. Leahy, who coordinated the activities of Generals Marshall and Arnold along with Admiral King. FDR's selections, in all of the theaters of his responsibility, of MacAthur, Nimitz, Eisenhower, reflected excellent and carefully thought out judgment. Their choices of subordinates, which included Bedell-Smith, Clark, Bradley, Patton, Hodges, Simpson, Eaker, Doolittle, Stillwell, Halsey, Spruance, Vandergrift, Smith, Lemay and many others spelled eventual success. His speeches, and cool leadership gave the people confidence after Pearl Harbor and the loss of the Philippines. FDR's leadership of the wartime conferences at Argentia Bay, Quebec, Casablanca, Teheran and Yalta were the driving force behind victory and the post-war dominance of the West. His sponsoring of the Bretton Woods Conference had the most lasting effect on the future world's economies vis-à-vis monetary stability. All in all FDR's domestic leadership before and during the war were unprecedented. The late President, the architect of victory, won a hard earned election in 1944, with excellent majorities in Congress, even with his health suffering from advance heart disease and arterial sclerosis. One of FDR’s final achievements was the “GI Bill,” which brought educational benefits, training and opportunity to millions.

He was able to maintain his majorities in Congress all through his tenure in office, and even though the Democrats narrowly lost Congress in 1946, they quickly recovered their majorities until the Eisenhower landslide of 1952. But from 1954 until the 1980's the FDR-New Deal coalition of Democrats maintained Congressional hegemony. 

FDR's legacy was one of not only unprecedented leadership, but of government innovation, reform and restructuring. Both have great-unequalled places in the history of our world and our time.


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