Growing up my family had nothing good to say about FDR, why I didn’t know and truth be told I still don’t know except perhaps because he was known for changing the size of government forever and advancing socialist type policies or maybe even because he and Eleanor pushed civil rights issues. Times and people were different in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
History still debates FDRs success and failures and likely always will.
Recently I visited Hyde Park, his home, presidential library and museum. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. During my visit I read many of his speeches and other writing in his own hand, I listened to several fireside chats and speeches and I heard many anecdotes from tour guides. I also learned a great deal about the Great Depression.
Two things impressed me greatly; the guts, strength and determination of the man and his leadership qualities. After age 33 his was totally paralyzed from the waist down. In a hopeless attempt to overcome polio he used to pull himself, using only crutches, the full length of the estate’s driveway, a distance I estimate to be over a quarter of a mile.
He made his wheelchairs out of kitchen chairs so they would appear less medical and to get to the second floor of his home he had what amounted to a huge dumbwaiter installed and he pulled himself up using the ropes.
His writing, his speeches to the American people were uplifting hopeful and inspiring. He repeatedly called for America to lead the world and fulfill its rightful duty. I heard no blame or scapegoating being thrown around, just hope and assurances for the future. He clearly understood his time and what leadership was about.
Politics aside it is easy to see why he was elected four times during the most trying time in American history outside the Civil War.
And then I thought to myself, how different is the leadership of America today.