tv The Presidency Roosevelts Kennedys - Political Relationships CSPAN August 1, 2020 12:28pm-12:54pm EDT
the national debt. paul: you do a great job at the hoover library and iowa. you do a great job preserving the legacy and records. the presidents may have different philosophies but we are together in our efforts. thank you for joining us. thomas: thank you, paul. >> next come on the presidency, we continue with another conversation from the presidential library series, the fdr director talks with helen price, director of the john f. kennedy presidential library about the political relationships between members of the roosevelt and kennedy families, and particularly the alliance between eleanor roosevelt and jfk. franklin d roosevelt presidential library provided this video.
>> hello and welcome to another addition of at home with the roosevelts. today we will talk about the relationship between two of the most important political families in american history during the 20th century, the roosevelts and kennedys. i am joined by the director of the jfk library. thank you for joining me. this is one of the most interesting and complicated relationships, to families that are really dynasties in the way they impacted american political life. there is a component of this that a lot of people do not stand. not just the relationship between franklin roosevelt and joseph kennedy the relationship between eleanor roosevelt and john f. kennedy. we will start with the
relationship between franklin roosevelt and joe kennedy. joe kennedy may most of his money in a night 20's in the market. he was appointed as the head of the security exchange commission. some said that was putting the oxen control of the henhouse. joe kennedy really became a very close confidant of fdr. you want to talk about how he managed that posting in london right before the war? >> it is an interesting time. i almost want to go back a tiny bit before that. when young people are in the age where they are graduating from high school, whoever is the president in that moment, has a profound impact on them.
fdr is the president as jfk comes of age. much of his vision of what is the nation is informed by fdr. clearly through his father and the courting of st. james he has direct connection to what service might would fight. when the german u-boat sank the first u.k. ship, jfk is asked by his father to look after the surviving u.s. passengers and their families during the transition. he gets a little bit of responsibility in that moment. it informs his notion of public
service. he signs up to go to war. he is excepted into the navy. to go to war under a president, the only president to have been conscious of as undeveloped, can't help but in accurate what leadership is. paul: because john f. kennedy was in england immediately prior to the war, he wrote a book about it. >> in addition to being in england and from there touring into different parts of europe, he observes the lead up to world war ii. some of that was intentional and his research for his thesis at harvard. he ultimately turns that into a book, why england slept.
he looks at what the buildup is to his view of the cold war. and how you respond. paul: interestingly, that book, john kennedy gave a copy of it to franklin roosevelt. jfk signed it and franklin roosevelt signed it. that is one of most precious possessions. you may not know the story. it is one of my favorite anecdotes. in 1940, when kennedy came back from europe, he came to visit this library that was under construction at the time. he left a gift. we have a note that fdr wrote to
jfk. it is a little bit hard to read. it appears to say thank you for the machine gun and goggles. can you imagine john f. kennedy dropping off a machine gun? what it said was marine gun. it was a spear gun for fishing. the goggles were swimming goggles. we have never been able to find what happened to the spear gun or the goggles. >> there were a lot of interactions throughout the years. the relationship between jfk and eleanor is also significant.
paul: the time right before the u.s. gets into the war, joseph kennedy is the investor, he starts siding with germany. he is telling roosevelt and anyone who will listen that he does not think anglin will survive. -- england will survive. there was a little bit of friction between him and his sons. >> a good bit of friction. inside the kennedy family. to go against your father would have been a tough road. paul: joseph kennedy almost ran against fdr in 1940. it was not clear that fdr was going to run. fdr had significant funds to campaign.
he kept him in england just long enough to prevent them from running. it became quite nasty between the two of them. >> he served long enough that a lot of people started thinking of running against him. paul: very true. when war broke out, john f. kennedy joined the navy. >> a lot of people recognize the exceptional circumstances of him joining the navy. he overcame a lot of physical disabilities. he was disqualified for naval service. he had a number of other maladies. his father joked about mosquito for the mosquito would die.
he did want to join the navy. even though he was initially rejected. he wanted his father to intervene on his behalf. he was initially assigned to a test job. he was given a command of pt boats. all of those operations very much and his sense of public service. and deepened his appreciation for democracy.
he knew democracy was under assault from a world that did not believe in the kind of freedom. he said even in his debates with candidate nixon, his address to the nation at that point is, can america live half free and have slave? he referred to lincoln in that speech. it is an interesting take on the world. in large part it is grounded in his service in world war ii. paul: there was another incident during world war ii i think had enormous inflict -- influence on john f. kennedy. that was the death of his little brother joseph. he was quite a hero. >> according to the family dynamics of that time, his older brother was to be the one who went into politics.
jfk was the to play a supportive role. unfortunately, in a bombing run in which the bombs went off prematurely, his father joseph turned to him. much of his younger life he gets away with being friendly and well-liked. not all that serious of a player. he saw the war develop. he became a much more serious person. paul: when world war ii ends, fdr has died.
the world changes. we enter into a new phase of this relationship between the kennedys and roosevelt. now the primary relationship is between eleanor roosevelt, who is arguably the most powerful woman in america, certainly one of the most powerful women in the world. and a major influence on the democratic party. their political career start to intersect. it really happens when kennedy becomes a senator. elinor has very different political views. >> you can correct me if i am wrong on this. a big part of the early schism revolved around senator mccarthy. and his relationship with the kennedys. he was in the hospital and
unable to deliver that speech. there was a thought that he may not be as strong of a candidate. she engages in some public criticism of kennedy as maybe not be the right candidate. kennedy wisely does not engage in a public battle with eleanor roosevelt. he would not win that battle. he privately writes her and asks her to consider the facts and be open to meeting with him. it is only an in person conversation that his curiosity and his willingness to learn and his patriotism come through. in a way she can support him.
i can appreciate given what she knew at the time and her familiarity with adlai stevenson why it was difficult for her to wrap her mind around kennedy. paul: bobby kennedy's role is one of the council to the committee certainly tarnished her. she was strong on civil rights. i think she really held a grudge. i love her but she could hold a grudge. she still resented the fact that he had criticized fdr during the war. i think she never fully let go of that.
i do think it is a wonderful moment in their relationship. he comes here to visit her home. after that convention, when kennedy gets the democratic nomination, he knows he has to win her over. >> we have some of those photos in our library as well. she is a big supporter of adlai stevenson. a very capable candidate. she does not think he has a strong enough record to run on. it is only in person that he is able to convince her. that is true who kennedy was
throughout his life. there is so much evidence of once people met him, he was the one voted most likely to succeed. he won people over. he had a smile that was completely disarming and charming. there is no amount of correspondence that will convince her. it has to be done in person. paul: eleanor roosevelt had some objections to jack kennedy, but she hated richard nixon. that was an easy choice. one of my favorites letter she ever wrote was too jfk that day after the first televised debate between nixon and jfk. it is classic eleanor roosevelt. it is passive-aggressive, complements, criticism. the tone of the latter is, i was watching the debate last night with some friends and although i thought you did very well, i
thought i would share some of their comments with you. one of the people she was watching the debate with was lloyd benson. many years later he made the reference to knowing john kennedy. she said he came across as too confident. he wanted to include the audience more in his answers. it is a classic letter. she campaigned for him quite vigorously. she did what she thought she needed to do for the democrats to win. she thought it was vitally important. she had had repeated run-ins with eisenhower and completely disagreed with his policies and thought it was a orton for a
democrat to get in arid to resurrect some of the new deal policies that she had supported so strongly. once kennedy gets elected, the first thing he does is appoint eleanor roosevelt. >> it is fascinating. not just for that campaign but presidential campaigns writ large. kennedy is trying to frame himself is standing up for a new generation. we have new ideas, a new energy. he knows full well that if he does not whenever the establishment, he is going nowhere. he has to get eleanor's support. he is trying to get out young voters. i think that is fascinating. he had a really good sense of history.
some new ideas and energy. one of the things he gets from fdr is the important of innovation and leadership. fdr said he would go off on a retreat and not talk to anybody and come back with this lend lease idea. that turns the war. president kennedy said you had to think about the bigger picture. you have to build up that political capital first. he pays very close attention to those relationships. earlier that morning, he called to express birthday wishes to
fdr's first vice president. a real student of history and a person who really pays attention to relationships those those personal touches. in addition to being a good, large-scale, retail politician. those personal touches made a huge difference throughout his career. i'm sure eleanor had no affection for john f. kennedy. -- fort john nance gardner. paul: she was not a huge fan. jfk puts her on a commission on the status of women. understanding that at this moment in time, this idea of the quality and including more women
in the political establishment to stop some of the discrimination that was leveled against women. it is interesting he would appoint her in that role. it went to one of her passions. she had been for gender equality her adult life. >> it was a brilliant take and eleanor did a great job with it. he did not appoint as many women as we would expect to see today. many called him to account for what is, what are you going to do to continue your campaign
pledge on equal rights for women? equal pay for women? equal roles? by today's standards, he could have done more. but for those times i think he did some amazing things. paul: eleanor roosevelt dies in november 1962. jfk comes back to hyde park. i think there is a true sincerity at that moment. the passage of this great woman. i also think it is an honor that she had earned. >> i can't find words that accurately capture eleanor
significance. she paves the way and influences so many people. he could not have fdr support at that time, he was long gone. but eleanor is able to bridge that gap. paul: we will and with the thought that both of these men gave their lives and duty to the country. in both cases, there depth -- death in office created a residence with the american people. i think there is something missing in today's politics. both of these people truly believed in public service.
they were raised with the sense that they had a duty and responsibility to serve the american people. they posted in extraordinary ways. i think john f. kennedy's inaugural address remains one of the best beaches of all time. -- best of all time. >> i have to agree and i have to say fdr and the events of his time as presidency shaped the nation, shaped that generation. in profound ways. even nixon is only three years older than kennedy. president herbert walker bush is only six years older than kennedy. world war ii shapes them and so many other kennedy sibling serve in the war either in the military or in civilian rules. i think president kennedy would have encouraged us, were he alive today, to always value public service and considerate
-- and consider it in its many forms. as a way to make the world that around us. paul: that is a great place to end today's conversation. thank you for joining us. you do a great job up there. i hope you have a great year. >> always great to talk. i look forward to visiting hyde park again. paul: that is it for today. hope to see you again in the future. toure c-span cities travels the country exploring the american story. since 2011, we have been to more than 200 communities across the nation. next, a lookrican at one of our city tours visit -- cities tour visits. been in ourum has committee for almost 60 years and it is an important part of the community because we highlight the local natural history, local cultural history,