tv Blanche Wiesen Cook Discusses Eleanor Roosevelt Volume 3 CSPAN August 31, 2017 10:14pm-11:33pm EDT
so thrilled to welcome blanche home. for those of you i have not had a chance to say hello to come i am the president of hunter college and it's an incredible institution which of course the institute is a part and it couldn't be more fitting that we are here tonight to celebrate this book and its author and subject in this house. [applause] we are gathered here at home and when our roosevelt shares with her husband, and i think it is fair to say her mother-in-law also for 25 years. from the front steps we enter today, franklin and eleanor departed to washington in 1933 to assume the glorious burden and the unparalleled challenges of economic oppression and the global war.
while the book we are debuting tonight covers the war years and decades after when eleanor roosevelt became not just the first lady of the land of the first lady of the world i think it is fair to say that her activism, her sense of justice and belief in women's rights in the quest for civil rights for all commitments that were born and nurtured under this roof. here are her consciousness is raised and expectations elevated and this was the headquarters of the impact on her country and planet. we are so fortunate when his father died and fdr and eleanor decided to sell their house to hunter college and as the house was a home and inspiration so the house and home and school was an incredible inspiration to the extraordinary author whose
work we will be celebrating. it is an incredible thing to have you come back and celebrate in this volume. [applause] blanch has spoken here so many times but this is the talk we have been waiting for because it is the celebration of the long-awaited we think final volume but you never know with blanche, the biography of eleanor roosevelt and the first volume of the scholarship in "the new york times" best seller was published when clinton was running for president. we've come a long way. [laughter] the first volume to eleanor to the white house and seven years later in 1999 the second volume appeared and in that book we
were in the brink of world war ii and the essential political agenda that her husband's administration. even when fdr did not follow eleanor's advice. we are very lucky that blanche worked long enough on the third volume but in the presidential administrations that have come and gone in the years since, the house has returned to an essential part of hunter college and we are able to celebrate it in a place with eleanor's spirit and one of the more beautiful portraits upstairs to the beautiful prose we followed the world war ii fdr and along the new path of their own public life including the founder of the un that was launched at the uptown campus in the bronx and of course eleanor's championship of human rights.
as one critic concludes. and it is particularly wonderful to celebrate your work during this season and i think it is fair to say no one has followed in the footsteps and forged a new path in or after the white house and quite the same way that hillary clinton has done and while she credits the inspiration every step of the way hillary has spoken out this was one of her personal heroes calling her a woman that was
larger than life but always approachable and as much as tonight's celebration is a homecoming it is also a homecoming for blanche. one of the most accomplished alumni of course she enjoyed a long career as a writer and a teacher and activist and is now a distinguished professor at john jay college and graduate center. in addition to the biography she's the author of the classified eisenhower crystal eastman on the revolution among many of the works and a familiar face not only at hunter but many appearances throughout the recent documentary of the roosevelts, so i hope tonight you will talk about your encounters as we like to say from hamilton we are in the room where it happens.
[applause] thank you for this scholarship and for making us so proud for being the quintessential graduate there's an old expression you can always tell a hunter girl, but you can't tell her much. people say it was may be returned for blanche and others, so we will have to choose. tonight is joining us in the audience are so many wonderful friends but a perfect shout out to the roosevelt family that has helped us realize the dream of transforming his home. [applause]
another great shout outs of the women with great political courage. [applause] finally, our own wonderful assemblywoman who is pushing ahead through so many things for new york city and the neighborhood institution at hunter college. [applause] it is wonderful to have a sunday morning book critic and a wonderful soul of hunter college in the book series. thank you so much. [applause] thank you for being here.
we have been waiting for this day as the president says. i began interviewing you at "the new york times" for the second volume that was published so i'm glad i found another place to interview you. why don't we talk to begin with a story of your reading of eleanor roosevelt here and hunter as good as a way as any to get into your wife work and hers. >> thank you so much for that wonderful introduction and to all of the wonderful people he here. i have to say my partner, my muse and editor the playwright and a cyclist or assist.
i mean, really. [laughter] and then all the way from california, hunter was the home of audrey and all the way from california are my god children jonathan rawlings and judy rollins got married at the roosevelt house. [applause] one more connection, we got to be friends because of a man that we both depended on for advice and vision.
there is a little plaque that at some point he introduced us and we had regular lunches and these standard edition. the motto when he was vice chairman of the university was very simple. it's better for everybody when it is better for everybody. [applause] and then also in this auditorium, judy is here and was the editor at the student paper and in 1941 i was president in 1961. my junior year as president at hunter college we invite his roosevelt to give a talk. she walked in and electrifying
the groom and had a message for us. imported things are happening in north carolina. that was her message. we took two buses to north carolina whereupon we got arrested and it was a kind of nasty person and hunter wh was i think from alabama and she wanted me to be suspended. there are students here when i got the chance to teach, there's my whole hunter game. i can't tell you how grateful i
am. thank you. there are so many people in the room but it's the freedom that really changed my life forever. >> me you should register some voters in north carolina it seems to be an important state. >> is the maa suing north carolina for voter blockage going on. >> as soon as possible leave, and the cabinet melloa elizabets here, all of our children are here. [applause]
this is a three volume book. there is too much to talk about from the beginning of roosevelts life to the end and i will try to focus as much as i possibly can but we also have tickets to the themes of her life that you followed through the three volumes. what struck me about this book and the second volume in particular is the title i would give to both of those is eleanor's fight, because it seems as if she has a vision that in many ways correlates with franklin and build and certainly is interwoven with it, but then there is an additional thing she sees which i is the police to politically expedient thing that he's looking for so a few caif you can tell me a littt about what animates eleanor roosevelt's vision in particular
both as distinct from franklin's plans and ideas and where they tie together. >> what animates her is so important. eleanor roosevelt identified with people in want and need and trouble, and that is all about her alcoholic family. her father died at the age of 34. how much do you have to drink. here we are drinking too much for a long time and we are almost 80. how much do you have to drink to die at the age of 34. so her father died when she was ten and eleanor roosevelt and had a good fortune to go to
school in england and meet the mentors that made us who we are in a there's still no biography. i've been at the graduate center for many years and i tell my. so she was a great educator and inspired a one-hour roosevelt and her message was what do you think, what is your opinion. she didn't want anybody to repeat anything and if you repeated what she said she would tear it up. the path was eleanor roosevelt's lifelong journey everywhere she
went tell me what do you want and what do you need and the goal is to make it better for all people especially people in want and need and trouble. so the new deal confronted the depression if the goal of full employment and affordable housing for everybody, full employment and affordable housing and education, excellent quality education for everybody and eleanor roosevelt began in 1943 to talk about free tuition. why don't we have free college tuition for boys and girls at a
time as the first woman in the history department at johns hopkins it was segregated by race and by gender until but eleanor roosevelt was fighting back beginning in the 1930s and in volume number two i have this incredible speech she makes in 1934 which they passed the resolution. segregation has to go. it hurts children of color and it hurts like children who are persuaded they are somehow better when in fact they are not and that is pretty much the
language of brown v. board of education when he went across the stage to give the speech but she wasn't expecting to give supporting this great event that opposed segregation and said we must recognize that we all go ahead together or we all go down together and that is her theme to the end of her life. >> you quoted her in letters to friends and family almost undermining her political skills. she constantly underplays them and yet she really does on the evidence of starbucks and i think what is important is that
while claiming that she is not an expert politician, she is working both for and with franklin but also as a kind of larger weight around him. i was fascinated by the variations of the things she would show him in the speeches were the writings before and other times she wouldn't. she did that artfully because that is the kind of political calculation that worked amazing things even if it was only rhetorical vision. >> it was the recognition that we needed to the movements. she understood what we need to do is make the politicians see
the support. the democratic party is dominated by the southern democratic party and then eleanor roosevelt is the against greed but you have to go door to door and block by block. that was her contribution and i always say never go anywhere without your day because i was born in the bronx, but she never went anywhere without the women of democratic party.
fdr doesn't silence her and they do share a vision for what the goal and endgame should be and where they disagree is what is possible and where do we keep the republicans out of office and how do they keep the dixiecrat quiet, how do we juggle if we need some advice here. why was that so touchy to give us some examples.
the silence beyond repair from 33 to 38 for silence beyond repair and then in this volume the greatest tragedy and again there is no biography of this amazing hero in my opinion because she's part of the german underground the american journal of freedom and it's really makes the rescue operation which is the only rescue operation that is successful before the war in
1940. one of the things that happens in the book happens is kate stimson here she sent me books to review when i was working on eisenhower and let me just say that was nice because it took me a long time to research eisenhower in a place called abilene kansas and it's a dry state you can't even get wine with dinner that is the problem but i've got to be friends with the local sheriff and they were to shoot guns and drink. that's how it gets done. so this went on for a very long time and she would send me books
to review and one that she sent me a she couldn't stand when she was breeding she couldn't stand it it couldn't possibly mean what it seems to mean so when i got back i called joe and we got to befriend because this is a book that should stay in print for ever and they wrote three of your books and it's just a great esteem and biographer. let's talk about it, so they had
i just being diplomatic and military history. we went through the papers and joe had been a good sign anything roosevelt wanted to do and anything he didn't want to do he didn't ... he said it's about power and he wrote she didn't care about power so then i knew there was a little story here and my dog was just out in 1981 i was looking for something else and i thought okay i will do it for the centennial and i will be done. that was my thought, but it didn't happen that way. athe biography turned out to be.
>> he dividend read the book but she called me up and said i hate your book and of course what she hated >> tell us what you say in the book that made many people think it was a wonderful book and other people agree. >> i think she just hated him like joe did. as i say in the book a cigar or may not always be a cigar at the corner of your mouth against violence is always the northeast
corner. we don't know what happens. the doors are closed, the shades are drawn, i don't go there. but we have the evidence even if he destroyed so many letters he sent before the fire. i created a new category, why not, given that eleanor had to deal with franklin and other women and the junior wife she always admired and treated with
respect and love as a junior wife, that so then there's her escort and they were compassionate and have fun together and ride horses together and swim together. that's all i know they do. so there's not. all the theater teachers disappd joe had said there were lots and lots of papers which all of a sudden disappeared about 1982 but nobody knows why or how, but they are gone. >> what you're saying is your books grew from the biographer himself and recognized the gaps in his own books and wanted them filled by another historian and biographer. that is a really inspirational
force. >> at the centennial she gave a speech that said eleanor is infinite and there has been a lot of criticism about how the apple blog shows the life to the legacy and i don't deal with the friendships. so eleanor roosevelt is infinite and i think there will be lots of people doing lots of things. >> they have a lot of instructions from you. the last years in biography and there was another person i meant to remember. let me go back because the last visit i had in martha's vineyard
i said what is up with nobody giving you credit for the operation because she's never even mentioned when the operation is discussed in she banged her fist on the table and decided to write this and i said i'm going to write it, so tell me that story. the story. and she said it's to protect her family. first i thought it was to protect her children and then i realized that was crazy because when joe was writing about the divorce and three children she had he didn't protect the children and then i found out from the children who deposited the ten boxes of books in the dining room.
so it was to protect her family. she had the two brothers got fought here and there. the connection is interesting from the university in 1931, and got a job at hunter to teach so she came here and was involved in the international student service that was the rescue operation for all kinds of students in trouble everywhere and she met elliott pratt who was a progressive and one of the richest men in america if she goes back to berlin.
they got married in berlin in 1932 and she had two brothers that fought here and fought there and a sister that would never meet joe. she and elliott go back in 1936 during the olympics and get dozens and dozens of people out. it is an incredible story that some one needs to write. >> one thing that is a selling point is.
people in the american news congress. and why it is so important if i may, they were like the political mentors so it is involved with american medicine and she wants what we now call a single-payer health care plan where everybody is covered just the way that it's done in most of europe. it was supposed to be the social security act of 1935. so they called on roosevelt to help him with what he thinks is
going to be a good medical plan which becomes medicaid and medicare but they lobbied it to death and he waves it in front of the press. she says this represents just a puny little bone in the vertebrae of what i had in mind. [laughter] and she continues to fight for what it would be single-payer until she died at the age of 100 to 1982. so it is with an extra which just isn't there yet.
the loneliness as a result of what you said at the beginning of the childhood and the daughter of a great alcoholic and her brother died just before world war ii. there are fewer inhibitions about what they can do and on the world stage it's obviously because the war is underway but she travels around the world after that and if you can say
some thing about the international travels as the eyes and ears of franklin domestically in the new deal, once again she feels that even though she's doing this somehow it is shunting her side even though she's doing this great diplomatic work with the armed forces and it's striking how different her own view is that what she's doing from what it seems is being accomplished on a day-to-day basis. >> in 1940 when there was roosevelt, she wanted a job, she wanted to go to europe and become like claire booth luce. she wanted to become a journalist and report from the front and she spoke so many
they are just so touching and moving. >> she does visit every single militarthis every singlemilitaro every single one of officer. she gets the home address to write to their parent. she gets her stories and what's personal and she spends time with everybody. the other thing she does is protests the cruelties of segregation, the obscenities of segregation on the military bases everywhere and then people seem to like this incredible story.
that didn't hurt at all, did it. but it's that kind of thing she created a friends wherever she went and we don't realize how long. it was eisenhower that bought executive order and integrated every single military base. truman said he was going to do it but he didn't and then he fired every kernel that wouldn't
integrate. then folks don't know he was segregated, black and white, christian and hebrew during world war ii. the head of the red cross who is one of the great military buddies and former general rights you can't do this they do not want it integrated and he said they won't get any blood. >> one of the things i found moving about the autobiography she did a lot of autobiographical writings and it's so frank it's almost
impossible to believe that it was published in the 840s and 50s that she was as honest as she was about her relationship with franklin roosevelt and it's on the last page of your book her conclusion. i was one of those that served those purposes. it seemed both a happy thing and with sadness at the same time what do you think she meant about that as a summation of her relation ship.
>> i approached him and he didn't like to be pushed all the time and so there are times when he puts a very high what do you call that chest of drawers between their rooms so she can't walk back and forth and say i have 20 things i want to talk to you about tonight. so he didn't like that and more and more he doesn't want to. and sometimes he realizes he needs to so they have this on-again and off-again conversation.
it is warm and embracing it at that moment when the two of them are income he says perhaps we can get back together again. but there is that one moment when there could have been another that roosevelt didn't want to be the housewife or partner. she was writing a daily column and had a radio show, you know, she's out there out an, out andt and that fills her heart. that's what she needs.
>> i would like to ask before we go to questions from the audience, as a biographer for all these years since joe first showed you that pay tv pictures that would be the basis, one is you are talking about the letters and the story of miller. those were so controversial among the reviewer's food and like the books in this thread then it seems to me because when i read the first volume in particular you say you are laying out that this is the evidence said in the letter and
they are not claimed for you as your conclusions and the books seem to me to open so much more than they closed. have you thought differently about the reactions to the first volume in particular and do you think other historians have thought differently about what you did say that is my first question and then i have one more. >> i think the world has changed so dramatically in our lifetime so that we can get married. i mean, imagine that. we've are all in the closet one. he taught a class once at the first women's studies class in the 1970s recalled its american women in black-and-white and the bar girls found out we were teaching this class and they invaded and then the cops, then it was all
police officers and they started bringing their wives and sweethearts and mothers so the class got to be huge and astonishing and they were posing as divorced women, but we were counted and then we had the academic union meeting and it was a fire drill and the president of john j. in the elevator today after the first meeting of the academic union, don rickles, and it was that long ago said i heard you had a great meeting though we were out. but from the 70s to the '90s we all went very slowly. and now there's a straight woman who's just done a new book on a.
she credits him for shaping eleanor roosevelt which is a little bit knock true. look at all these letters you write to me everybody wants to know how you spend your day and i do say that in the volume in 1936. so we really just traveled a wonderful road to this moment and then there's backlash and the man running with the trust pike is one of the nastiest bigots in our history. should i say melloan i would like to give eleanor roosevelt's advice to women in political
life, may i? i sent this to hillary clinton long ago. you cannot take anything personally, you cannot have grudges you must finish the day's work when the day's work is done. you cannot get discouraged too easily. you have to take defeat over and over and it goes on women who are willing to be leaders must stand out and be shot at more and more they are going to do it and more and more they should. but remember, she added, every woman in public life needs to develop a tough skin as tough as rhinoceros hide. [applause]
before we go to questions, the thing i've wondered is you worked on this book for over, the volumes for over 33 years and the question i wonder about is did your ideas change so that the things that are in the first and second volume for examples you would do differently now or do you look back and think there are things i missed i didn't lay them out properly all the way through i would like to know how you think of your own work at the end of it as looking back at it and what might be done differently if you knew about when you founded at the end so you could talk about it at the beginning. >> the two melloan that is a great question. and let me just say eleanor roosevelt never stopped growing and changing. so as one grows chronologically,
she's always surprising. there is always something new. and she's always known about it. but now the issues have changed. eleanor roosevelt really despised the u.s. prison system and here we have the industrial complex. we have more people incarcerated than any other country in the world. and eleanor roosevelt would visit women in prison, she would go to the prisons and write articles and to say i could have been any one of the women and i wonder if that meant she also could have killed her husband. [laughter] but the bottom line is we shouldn't have prisons. she was what we now call
restorative injustice. we need counseling, we need medical programs, we need social work, and we need full employment and we need quality education. and at one point she said i can give you full employment and 100% literacy. one teacher, five students. so it's that kind of vision she had and she went around. then the school that was kind of a reform school for the wayward children, she would have been over for dinner and she encouraged music and sports. what do children need, they need music and sports. here we live in a moment where
we are closing off in public schools, first of all closing public schools and second of all your indie music and sports programs. that was an ultra 30 so i'm happy to say th that unions have been protesting and of course we need unions, music and sports to have 100% literacy and full employment here. i would spend more time on her opposition to the prisons. >> said there were more issues that developed and you could see she was a visionary about. so that is a wonderful way of ending like the las with the lae book is her legacy. >> and she wanted all human rights and dignity meaningful employment, economic security, housing, education, jobs for
everybody. and at one point she's told she shouldn't support the economic full rights of the declaration of human rights and she said you can't talk human rights and if you want me not to support this i will resign whereas truman says no, don't re-sign, follow the convictions and so the un support the entire packagfor ths supposed to be united and to divide economic and social rights with the civil and political rights as a compromise she agreed to that i'd regret and i'm sure she regretted and the u.s. to this day hasn't even had one conversation about economic and social rights. jimmy carter brought up the universal declaration of human rights during his administrati
administration. it wasn't voted upon. it wasn't ratified. it was george herbert walker bush who after the soviet union collapsed said okay now it's time to support the universal declaration of human rights. so, most of the world supports those comments that we don't. there is a group that is fighting to get economic and social rights called arm of the u.s. do and if hillary is elected, she will try to have hillary be the one to gratify the economic and social rights. >> the unfinished work of eleanor roosevelt, i think at that moment we should stop and open up to questions from the audience. thank you for being here. [applause]
we have a microphone that will go around for questions. there's someone in the back. >> jonathan. >> yes, you do. you are on c-span. >> how, obviously franklin died in 45 before the cold war really began. and so, how did eleanor, i'm silenced, reconcile the imperatives of the real politics and the bedfellows but that's what america with which her commitment to the universal human rights? >> eleanor roosevelt actually became a bit of an anti-communist. i mean, very vigorous anti-communist but she said we have to keep talking with each
other, and she would invite the soviet members of the delegation to her home for dinner and lunch. we have to keep talking to each other. we don't want war, she didn't trust the soviets at all and a lot of negotiations i will support this if you support that went on, so the universal declaration of human rights gets passed and the soviets abstain over some issues but they don't vote against it. did that answer your question?
this is one of the founders of the women's strike for peace. [applause] use the microphone because it is being recorded. >> i said i've been angry and hollering and screaming and working for all the things we can never seem to get. this country is a disaster. i don't know how you can feel so positive. eleanor is wonderful but why don't we have more today? why don't we have more activities and distress and anger today? all of the young people today are quiet.
>> may be other people can answer this. but i have to say that i feel very encouraged. let me say two is. roosevelt always said it is politically incorrect. [laughter] so i believe that. and i feel very optimistic because i think black lives matter is a movement. i think that our students, i have a class the first day of class last semester they went out for bernie to the park. i said what do you mean. we want to go to the park so they all went. they are all veterans and john j. going to the park so this semester they didn't want to go
to so i persuaded them that they have to vote because we could push hillary clinton to the progressive fold so we need to push and we need a movement. we don't want a man that looks like mussolini and sounds like hitler, we need a movement and so by the third class i think i did persuade them, but they are so vigorous. common dreams.org they read it everyday anevery day and they ch lots of things to argue about. i feel very hopeful about the movements that are organized everywhere. i feel frightened by the call tf fascism and violence that we are seeing coming from those people and it's a very scary moment i agreed to that extent it is
absolutely frightening and i want to say a word about john edgar and being there are how many million homeless people over 30 million homeless americans. and that number, over half of the numbers of homeless americans are veterans. then there's all the incarcerated. then there's all of the unemployed. and we are talking about e-mails. so, one looks at eleanor roosevelt fbi files. john edgar hoover hated eleanor roosevelt. and her fbi files that we got in the freedom of information act are unbeatable. he hates her personally and calls her that old cow.
the old cow is at it again and she has friends that are communists. every integrationist, every civil rights leader, all of the great southern integrationists were attacked by john e-echo hoover and called communist. who else would be for integration except a communist and of course the november. virginia? i mean, please. >> so you are hopeful. >> i'm hopeful, but who promoted this man to be the fbi had? i mean, he was george bush's appointment. what is he doing here and why is he doing it and why isn't he
being removed instead of her being hounded from it is aggravating in my opinion. [applause] a question from upstairs about eleanor roosevelt. we are bringing you a microphone. thank you. 54 years ago what i hope hillary will do to try and, i was the runner-up iran against her in 1961 because my brother said she has nobody running against her and that is not democratic. you have to run against her. i said i want her to win. he said that it's democracy. you have to run against her. >> did you run a bad campaign on
this? >> heeded. >> heeded. he ran for president at the bronx. i ran against blanche. after my brother they had the elections the same day and my brother came home and said his campaign was first and he lost by one vote. i however prepared a speech blanche could be proud of and not ashamed of. there were 3,005 was not a happy camper. i have a comment about my brother's relation chip of eleanor roosevelt. my brother and i went to our
mother see in the bronx and i am here. we said we are signing up to go on the freedom rides and she said you have to come it is very dangerous and we said that's the way you raised us and she said you are right, you have to go. i've never been so proud of my mother in my life. how did your parents react? >> they were supported. >> and it's not because they didn't love us. >> no, they thought it was the right thing to do. okay, now my brother and i went to hunter and many of our mutual friends started an organization called students for a democratic society citizens for a democratic society where we
would have all five colleges in new york city colleges who were and why you, whatever come as a group and support candidates that we felt would represent what's roosevelt represented and we supported those candidates. we got rid of timothy hall was still around, the people were still around, we got a lot of really excellent candidates elected because we worked hard. here's the meeting. we needed somebody on our board to give us credibility and my brother heard that eleanor roosevelt was going to be on television so he went and she was on stage and he went up to say hello to her and talk about
our group and being on the board and she said that is so interesting. please sit down and talk to me about it. then the lights went on and he was on television. [laughter] and she introduced him on the show when he got to participate and at the end she said not only will i sign up, but i am going to have senator lehman signed up also. just an amazing woman. thank you for writing those incredible books. >> the books were incredible. >> we have time for one more question.
>> i noticed that you called the years 1933 to 1938 in your previous volumes. my sense is that they were also the defining years for franklin and i wonder if you have any insight into how he moved from the 1933 franklin to the 1938 franklin. >> as the new deal unfolded and he's all what was possible in housing and security, there were so many changes.
i think fdr just what i didn't write that. it's housing for everybody, education for everybody and that became the goal. it became franklin's goal and eleanor. and i think there was an effort to make that happen. it's education for everybody, real opportunity. this has to happen. and if that ronald reagan had so
much in the revolution. and in the years after that moment i think a new movement is aborning and we just have to continue the fight. it's never over until i it's ov. revolution is about the process. it's not in event. [applause] there is a book signing in the four freedoms room, thank you all for coming. [applause]
. >> some of the issues talked-about pollution, is a big one. non renewable resources. oil and gasoline, the super big one was the prospect of global famine due to over population. >> is easy to overlook the fact they both had roots in farming communities, economic hardship and self-reliance self-reliance, transformed by the complied the federation of world war i to live in the shadow of franklin d. roosevelt.
>> we prefer to think about it like a rebellion withal that activism has long been predicted for housing discrimination and economic discrimination and that cannot be understood as chaotic and incoherent. it was a rebellion. >> as a republican of texas who shared his reading list and reading habits with us. >> i highly and strongly encourage people
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