Thursday 26 May 2016

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

"Between them Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt for nineteen of the first forty-five years of the twentieth century, years during which much of the modern world -- and the modern state -- was created." (Ken Burns)

No other American family has touched more lives than the Roosevelt's.  Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt shared a common love for politics and people.  They shared a common courage in the face of fear and perseverance in the face of adversity.  They also shared a common relative, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Ken Burns series The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History courtesy

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, had his finger on the pulse of America.  He was a Populist, concerned about the farmers, about grassroots America.  He was also concerned about nature, making a pilgrimage to Yellowstone, the first of America's National Parks.  Theodore Roosevelt was fearless.  While delivering a political speech on one occasion, an assassin shot him. The bullet lodged within a quarter inch of his heart.  However, Theodore insisted on delivering the speech, which lasted a full hour.  Only then did he let his attendants take him to the hospital.

Speed reader Theodore Roosevelt used to read a book a day courtesy

Theodore's fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, became the 32nd President of the United States.  While Theodore was a Republican, Franklin was a Democrat.  The two shared much in common.  Both were fearless.  After contracting polio at Campobello Island at the age of 39, Franklin insisted on learning how to "walk" again using braces and crutches.  Suffering immense pain, he would practise standing so he could deliver a speech, determined to make a political comeback.  Franklin campaigned in every county of New York State in his bid for governor.  Later he ran an extensive presidential campaign.  No stranger to pain and suffering, it was Franklin who led the nation through the Great Depression, building moral through his fireside radio chats.  It was Franklin who delivered the famous "Today will live in infamy speech" after the Pearl Harbor attack. 

A young FDR courtesy 

Franklin married Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore's niece.  The couple raised five children.  Eleanor, always supportive of her husband's political career, helped him campaign.  More than any other First Lady, she worked diligently to promote her husband's career.  Eleanor wrote a column in a daily newspaper.  She promoted childhood literacy.  She furthered the cause of Black Americans.  And long after her husband passed away, Eleanor was still working.

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