Alonzo Hamby’s “Man of Destine, FDR, a Political Life,” and Robert Dallek’s “FDR, a Political Life.” Richard J. Garfunkel 1-8-23

History, they say, is the greatest teacher. Unfortunately, in this generation, most are guilt about not reading the lessons of the past. As usual, I am reading two more books on FDR, basically with a focus on his political life- Alonzo Hamby’s “Man of Destine, FDR, a Political Life,” and Robert Dallek’s  “FDR, a Political Life.”  In truth nothing has changed in the last 100 years. There is no real need to go back too much further, because America was much more rural, with a completely different set of economic dynamics. The same forces of economic imperative, culture, race, greed and fear existed and it was worse.

One thing for sure that hasn’t changed is the “cult of the personality!” In a sense, all the good meaning and the important achievements of the New Deal (with its failures) would never have worked politically without the immense personal popularity of FDR. In the same sense he faced massive opposition even in the heart of the Depression and the recovery. Let us not forget that in 1932, after three years of the Depression, with possibly 1/3 of the country out of work, Hoover still received 39% of the vote against a very popular governor of NY, who in the last election, won by 725,000 votes, more than twice the record margin that had achieved in any state in history, in any state or federal election (Al Smith won in 1922 as governor with 325,000 or so votes), a man with a famous name, a successful governor and a person, who was thought of as conquering polio. In fact, in FDR’s life up to 1928, when he first ran for governor, he would have been famous for his charitable work, especially at Warm Springs. Let us not forget, that the millions who voted for Hoover in 1932, most often voted for Landon in 1936 and for sure Nixon and Goldwater. The 21 year old’s would be in their 50’s.

In the same sense we face the same dynamic with Trump, just like the country faced with Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, etc. It is all reflective of a hero who (supposedly) represents what a segment of the population wants. There are great rational and irrational fears in America regarding the border, libertarian freedoms of the far left and the right, the widening gap between the rich and poor, the changing racial demographics, the high cost of housing, education and healthcare and the culture itself. Many American young people are reflective of the film ,”The Last Picture Show.” They have no clue what they can do, where they will live, they are not getting married, children aren’t being born and there are two distinct Americas: one where people can raise their family, educate them, send them to camp, with specialty programs with social and physical enrichment, along with the proper connections and all the rest. Just look at the rural South and  West from the Mississippi to the Rockies in the 20’s and 30’s and today.  No matter what all of us know, we are part of the elite that at another time, folks looked up to and aspired to be part of. That has changed dramatically, and the illusion of Andy Hardy and Ozzie and Harriet (which had some rationale) has disappeared forever! Interestingly, it disappeared with Ricky (Rick) Nelson who became a rock and roll star and whose life spiraled far away from the life he was raised.

In the last week or so, as I scrolled through the television, I noticed at least 6-8 college basketball teams and all the players on both sides of the court, from different sections of the country were non-white (Black). Their hair, their tattoos and their style of playing was incredibly foreign to me. Did I care? Not that much since I haven’t watch any basketball since the end of Larry Bird’s career. But to many middle (aged and in the flyover states) Americans, I am sure they wondered why there was not one white player on the courts. One can see the same in the NBA, and it is reaching close to that in the NFL. In baseball, without Latino/Hispanics, half the teams, or more, would be gone. The commercials and the sitcoms represent a different racial America, reflective of the younger elements of the population, which is the audience the advertisers want to see. In Britain, there is a popular program, “Midsomer Murders,” which is in its 23rd season and we have seen all of the 120+ shows. It is set in very, well-off British exurbia. For the first 18 seasons it was lily white to the nth degree. Now each episode has Blacks integrated into every aspect of the plot. But, in fact, there are virtually no Blacks who live in this area and the idea of inter-marriage is absurd. In fact, that characters are Black is completely ignored, so after social criticism of the program’s make up, they made the changes. But, I am sure older folks are bewildered by the casting.

Thus, this divide transcends politics. It is something engrained in people.  Therefore, others like the wealthy Liberty League in the 30’s (Long, Father Coughlin, Gerald Lk Smith) or FOX Noise today (or the Klan, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Michigan Militia, etc), cater to the disenchanted. They keep on telling their audience that someone else is getting all the benefits of our society. In other words your legacy along with the country and the social order you love is being stolen!



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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 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 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

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