tv Eleanor Roosevelt CSPAN August 10, 2022 9:21pm-10:37pm EDT
individuals had as dramatic effect on 20th century history both in this country and abroad than mrs roosevelt and we were proud to partner with the franklin roosevelt presidential library and the concord museum on this evening's discussion. no scholar knows more about our subject tonight and has spent more time examining her papers, then elita black the editor emeritus of the eleanor roosevelt papers project and former research professor of history and international affairs at george, washington university. professor black is recognized as a leading expert on eleanor roosevelt and the universal declaration of human rights and is ridden and edited to 10 books as well as a variety of articles on women politics in human rights policy. she has also curated exhibits on human rights for presidential libraries and other renowned repositories and has received awards from three universities for her commitment to students and her teaching she currently also serves as a senior advisor
to former secretary of state hillary rodham clinton. the spark for this evening's forum is a new biography of david nicholas titled simply eleanor, which is now out in paperback. this is the perfect biography for our times rights walter isaacson, the story of a determined woman who willed herself to become the voice for the voiceless a fighter for freedom and a tribute to the nobility of america's true values this comprehensive biography of eleanor roosevelt filled with new information portrays her in all of her glorious complexity. it's a wonderful read with valuable lessons about leadership partnership and love david nicholas is the best-selling author of schultz and peanuts and nc wyeth which won the ambassador book award for biography since we are partnering with the concord museum. let me know that this is a bit of a homecoming of sort as david is a proud graduate of concord academy and it's traverse the shores of walden pond in the
trails in which british regulars marched on april 19th 17. a5 it is a pleasure to welcome tonight's moderator back to the national archives. tom putnam is the former director of the kennedy library and served as acting director of the office of presidential libraries before he chose to abandon the 20th century having been wooed by the siren song of concord's reformers transcendentalists and revolutionaries. he's a close friend and we are pleased that he is spearheaded this partnership with the national archives and the fdr library. as you may know the national archives administers the network of presidential libraries from herbert hoover to donald j. trump franklin d roosevelt library was our first we now have 15 libraries in total more than 660 million pages of textual records. 640,000 museum objects. electric express my appreciation to our colleagues at fdr and throughout the presidential
library system who worked tirelessly to provide access to the documents that define us as a people. i was pleased that in david. miklas's acknowledgment. he calls out and i quote the roosevelt library supervisory archivist christian carter and her superb team including matthew hanson sarah and evans and patrick faye. he notes that in the stacks at hyde park mrs. roosevelt's papers. rise 889 cubic feet more than a million documents their content traversing. no fewer than nine ages of world history from the victorian age to the space age. let me close with these words from the new biography. luckily eleanor roosevelt believed in protecting and guaranteeing individual freedom. nothing could have forged a greater trust with her future biographers scholars and historians then the counterintuitive measure of making her personal and professional papers available for all to study. i thank you all for joining us this evening as we explore the
life and legacy of eleanor roosevelt with historian or leader black and biographer david nicholas. and i'm so pleased to be sharing this virtual space with an old friend alita and a new acquaintance david who until this moment. i had only know through written words of first via our recent emails and more importantly this wonderful new biography, which i really enjoyed reading over the past few days. i should note that. it's just out in paperback and truly no gift would better say merry christmas. happy hanukkah kwanza or new year to your loved ones. then this wonderful new biography. and meeting it. i realized i've actually organized a number of forums an attended them with alita and others on mrs. roosevelt, but i had never had the time to read a cradle to grave biography. so i thank david for that opportunity and i thought for the next 60 minutes. we try to do the same which of course means we're going to have
to skip over large swath of her life and parts of the book including including some of the most really interesting personal stories, which i feel we couldn't do justice to in this short conversation, but i hope that it peaks your interest and leave you wanting more so you'll go out and buy the book. there's also possibility that our discussion will be aired on seat and i'm hoping that we will appeal to both those of you who know a lot about mrs. roosevelt and to those of you who this may be your first introduction that will promise to try not to assume too much information, and i also hope to fill in some of the blanks here and there with direct quotes from the autography which is superbly written. david is a artist who paints with words and i wanted to share a few of his turns of phrase this evening here and there is part of my questions and lastly we've selected a few photos. from our colleagues at the franklin roosevelt presidential library in museum, but since our
conversation is going to be organic forgive us. if as we go through some of those images they don't always immediately match the moment to which we're talking but you'll see the span of eleanor roosevelt's life before you so david, let's it's a cradle the grade biography. let's begin talking about her childhood. i think we'll see a few images you quote her in the book is saying quote. i was brought up in a rather peculiar way and just in terms of your fun in terms of phrases. i thought i would you describe her father is someone who lived in his brother kenny roosevelt shadow and quote took a connoisseur's pleasure in victimized unfulfillment and then eleanor became her father's caregiver and quote showed herself uncannily gifted at responding to each fresh hurt. so anyway, tell us a little bit about a briefly as you can about her childhood, especially a relationship to her mother and her father. or the the childhood we know that eleanor lived through is
the childhood from hell, that would be in a victorian novel or in a venture story about a a lost girl the girl, you know, the girl the limber lost eleanor was a oddly adult child because her parents were oddly childlike adults and one of the the connoisseur of unfulfillment notion in eliot roosevelt is really that not just that he's failing to live up to his brother theodore roosevelt, but they both had a father who was a great philanthropist known as great heart to the family. he would be pretty hard to live up to by anybody but elliot was falling down very quickly having no real purpose in life. there was no place for him. he wasn't finding a way to prove himself. he didn't go into politics. there was no war he was a very uncertain guy. i personally think he was suffering. from all kinds of self-medication problems, but those turned into alcoholism quickly when he married ana
rebecca hall. it was a pretty it was a last ditch effort to get himself, right? and he was determined when he married her to to do right but very quickly they both discovered. both of eleanor's parents discovered that they weren't very good at being parents and partly they didn't know anything about it and they also were very concerned in their both in their individual ways anna with she the whole family her family once powerful and and rich in new york had fallen down. they were marginalized by the great new fortunes. she wanted to be a kind of intermediary between the asters and between the old knickerbocker families and she was in some ways actually a kind of original model of a diplomat. she was a society lady who was bringing together the the old 400 with the new 4000 and she was a smart but but absolutely dysfunctional mother and she put
eleanor under a a severe pressure of never living up to her expectations her father on the other hand. eleanor's father a daughter. however, he was falling down drunk almost from her early days. she never stopped trying to impress and fulfill his wishes for her as a as a horse woman as a as a hunter as a as a woman who was in of herself. i think he gave her a sense of roosevelt confidence, but he himself that he himself was was losing fast it all fell apart very early in her life. she lost in 19 months her mother did diphtheria an older brother an older younger brother and then her father to alcoholism. she will later let's and off and off against the story of her of her life isn't working. so let's turn to happier times leading them we have to do this so quickly. this is kind of chrysalis moment where she becomes kind of
perhaps she attends the allen's wood school and london and comes under the influence of headmistress there maurice who david quote welcomed each new pupil with the question. why was your mind given to you? but to think things out for yourself? hello more about her time at talent allenswood school was outside of london. okay, david that's gonna be for elena. i'm sorry. that's okay. wonderful. sorry. um, if there's one person in her life that i wish i could have met. it would be maurice rivest. she was a force of nature. a bolshevik a self-proclaimed devotionic that eleanor described as a bolshevik. but she challenged eleanor to do one thing that as an historian and as a teacher, i've tried to emulate and which i think was the defining thing that eleanor learned in her life. and that is you can never know
what you think. and so you can argue the opinion of your fiercest critic with equal integrity. when eleanor went to allenwood she was delighted to be out a home that she found lonely and scary as our great friend blanche cook notes. she had locked put on the inside of her bedroom doors. we know that her uncle's also had alcoholism problems and love to take pot shots out out of the family home, and she only really felt safe when she crawled up in a cherry tree. so alan's wood to her was the place where she could be eleanor and she blossom there in a way that was truly remarkable. i mean she became the most popular girl in the school. she was elected captain of the
field hockey team and eleanor says the happiest day of my life was when i was elected captain of that team, so she's finally seeing that she's got a brain that she is free to move then she can have friends in her own right and mademoiselle srivast sees in eleanor. this spark of greatness if you will she moves eleanor to her dining room table. they have dinner together every night. they argue the great issues of the war and the world they argue the boer war and eleanor writes a friend one night. you know, i finally learned that i have a brain i have argued the boer war with magnel and i have one each time, you know, so, how does this help eleanor become eleanor eleanor doesn't want to go home. i mean she is elated to be an alex wood. and so she asked to stay during the summers.
and man was health says to her basically, of course, you can stay but now you must learn to be independent. you must learn to live on a budget. you must learn to make your own reservations. you must learn to speak the language of the communities that you visit and most of all you must remember. that you are a guest in these communities. so while you go to the opera and the museums and the stores and the fine restaurants, you have a duty you must volunteer in hospitals. she must volunteer in settlement communities. you must learn to see the cities in all of their complexity and wholeness and eleanor revels. i mean she's there so much to cut the story short stories story short is that she wants to stay and teach there she wants to teach history in civics and english literature alan's wood.
and teddy becomes president. she's got to go home and make her debut, which she does not want to do. the man was el says to her. of course. she must go home. you are roosevelt. but she writes eleanor a letter that eleanor carries with her basically. for the next 50 years engine which is why that was else who best picture is in eleanor's bedroom in every residence that she has and the base the letter basically says, of course she must go home and be a roosevelt, you know, your uncle's in the white house and you have family responsibilities, but also remember first and foremost. you are my eleanor. and you can make your own way in this world. david yo, this lovely image when she's leaving new york. she's with her aunt her aunt wants they're in a ship. they aren't wants to go to her
birth. so eleanor isn't able to see the statue of liberty when they leave new york harbor and you have a lovely quote eleanor roosevelt was soon to discover more of herself than she had ever known under the torch of a mighty french woman with radical visions of liberty and justice. so maybe you say a word too about marie suvest and then finish elitist point and bring her back to the united states and what happens when she comes back. i think elite i really did it beautifully did the whole of mary service. i would just add that. i think marie opened up an ellen a part of eleanor that women we have to remember women's education at the time was thought to be potentially hazardous to women's health the idea that he went must think for yourself that you must figure out how to argue even a contrapuntal point of view all absolutely true. i think she also there's a scene on a train where they are going on one of the holidays where eleanor can't go home and and maurice suddenly realizes that
her great friend and novelist is living in that town decides on the spur or has decided that they're gonna get off the train but ellen does know this she thinks that their bags are booked through to you know to to stations down and suddenly maurice has things going out the window. she's we're off the train owners sense of spontaneity, which was so crushed by the expectations of of edwardian womanhood was suddenly opened up and i think that going boom she took home to america an odd thing that i noticed in her settlement work, which is eleanor was so exposed by madam suvez marie survest to italy to see italy with her own eyes. she was sent out by madam suvest into florence into towns walking the streets alone. this was unheard of to be walking the streets alone at the age of 19 that 18 19 eleanor saw things with her own eyes experiencing. she one point was even living in the they were living in the home of an artist that was unheard of
she was talking with with the artist about his representation of the christ figure. she was she was doing analysis. she was doing critical thinking she was thinking when she got back to the united states one of the bonuses of being her age doing what she was doing, which was this horrible process of coming out the debut of a young woman into society. fortunately the junior league just then had begun its own participation in the settlement movement. this is a movement that had begun in england through chicago through the hull house through jane addams coming to new york in which the idea is essentially you make yourself a friend of the community you are you live in the community. it was essentially college kids really eleanor and the junior league girls were pretty advanced. these were college students who were who were embedding themselves in communities and in eleanor's case it was down to rivington street down to lower east side manhattan twice a week
on the subway an unheard of liberty and unheard of it scary. it was scary. it was bold and one of the things she noticed as she i as as i so in her own writing was that as she taught young italian children how to move in calisthenics class how to be american citizens. she knew that what she had to do was get them away from their italian mothers. enough to listen to another voice to an american voice italian mothers were incredibly protective. she knew this from from italy they were incredibly protective of their young daughters. especially eleanor walked children home. she brought franklin young franklin cousin franklin roosevelt down to the lower east side to see what it looked like when you walked somebody back to their door back into their into their tenement building what the conditions there were how and franklin roosevelt had never seen like it. how could people live like this? he said to her.
she was absolutely crucial to his understanding that there was another world. this wasn't just club, you know philanthropy or club, you know activity. this was real stuff. this was the real thing and she took to it in a way that you you don't see among the others in her group in in her peer group at the time, but she had come out but she had to do these other things this however was her first glimpse of what multi-racial pluralist democracy looked like in a world where only corrupt politicians of tammy hall and others like it were in charge. a lead explain a little incongruity for me again the news to me and the biography that she wasn't a supporter of women's suffrage. we're doing this in connection with an exhibit that we have up on the 19th amendment explain what was going on there? well, i'd like to piggy back on on what david said is a segue to answer that if if i could tom i
mean one of the things that eleanor learns in in the settlement world is to not like actor not act like her friends who thought that if they put a picture on the wall life would be better. and the reason that she learns this is she becomes involved with immigrant union organizers. and they take her under their wing both of covertly during this time and overtly later to really show her the horrors of the triangle short wage factory fire the horrors of the the tenements where they're feces on stairwells where you have to step over buckets of urine in order to enter people's rooms
and who's um rotted food and human waste were thrown outside their windows on the streets. and so she sees disease. she sees famine. he sees women literally chained to sewing machines. and show her whole focus. is on protective worker legislation? and show her energy will begin in rivington street for her lifelong commitment to the living wage her lifelong commitment to what we will call the fair labor standards act her lifelong commitment to welcoming immigrants in ways that value their own cultures. while trying to expose them to democracy against that backdrop
suffrage is not a priority. her priority is sanitation. her priority is a living wage. her priority is food. her priority are clean places to live and public education. so she does not embrace the subject the suffrage movement because she is committed to progressive reform that does not mean that she was supposed to suffrage. it just means she didn't prioritize it. and then once fdr, you know is campaigning to be vice president and he thinks oh my god, i got to come out for shopridge then she will move in that direction to support him and then dedicate her enormous. organizing talents to organizing new york state precinct by precinct in a way that it had
never been done before so much so that when the war boss of chicago richard daly who would become mayor he sent his staff to look at how eleanor would organize the state. well again, i have to zip us through this history. so elite is just brought up franklin roosevelt. so david, why don't we you have a lovely line that she saw her marriage to franklin as an opportunity to quote spanish forever the bad story of her parents by putting virtue and virtuous husband in her own from now on wrote eleanor a certain kind of orthodox. goodness was my ideal and ambitions to talk about her meeting franklin roosevelt and their marriage and that marriage was like well franklin was her fifth cousin and they met on a train one summer day on a train going up river heat a hyde park and she to her grandmother's house at tivoli.
where as alita has already referenced. there were blocks on the inside of her door to protect her from her uncles who had once been, you know, charming young men around town tennis champions and so forth now predatory alcoholics who were dangerous and scary and eleanor's life in her grandmother's house both at tivoli but in town as well where she lived during her coming out period and just after the at the time she met franklin was chaos. it was it was pure chaos, and it was not knowing where she lived not knowing. where what her what what her future would be where she was even going to go really franklin's life was settled and solid and it was act by a mother who with franklin created a couple that eleanor attached to in a sense. they were a i think of them as a compact of oddball simply because franklin was an oddball
eleanor was odd in that she was left out i think of her as being ghosted by the roosevelt's her own family was discontinued as one of her cousins roosevelt cousin said, there was no mother there was no father. there was her younger brother hall on whom she dotted and whom she took a parental role with him. she took a parental role to the point where she when hall went off to boarding school. she was the parent who went off and presented herself on parents weekend, but other than that eleanor had no center in her life as a in terms of family. franklin was not just a center. he was a sun god off of him came a kind of certainty a confidence a belief in himself that had been born out of a hudson valley childhood in which he was the sole child the soul. air to james roosevelt and and sarah delano roosevelt. he was he was as much in his mother's eyes at delano or more than he was a roosevelt which meant that he had a certain
there was a going to be always a delano in her life and franklin was always going to be in his mother's life eleanor had a place in it, but but tangentially and i think she understood franklin as being an odd duck because he had not been popular among his peers. she saw him as something of an outsider. she also saw him as a little like her father and he was charming and he was lovely and he made the world a happy place for her when they were finally not secretly engaged but truly engaged they married on a saint patrick's day and teddy roosevelt theodore roosevelt ted uncle ted. the president united states came to new york on various missions and to speak to hibernian societies and so forth and gave eleanor a two franklin in a sort of preposterous old-fashioned tribal wedding as the the irish paraded outside and the the old
knickerbocker families that the roosevelts were still very much a part of all gathered under this sort of double double-sided mansion of one of eleanor's cousins. and they were a power couple seemingly, i think franklin it's really important to remember that franklin's attraction to eleanor had a great deal to do with the fact that she was the niece of the president united states a president and a figure that he idolized as did so many men of his young men of his generation theodore roosevelt was not just the president united states. he was something new in the world. he he had a worldview a global view of america and it's participation in the far east in south america in in so many ways that we're going to get us into terrible trouble as a country theodore roosevelt was was shaping a world at franklin roosevelt very much. wanted to not just be part of but to emulate and to to mimic and i think marrying eleanor was a fast ticket for a guy who when he at eleanor's side appeared at
one of theodore roosevelt's inaugurations, you know was was marked down in the newspaper as you know, franklin b roosevelt or you know, no one really new who this young cousin was from upriver. eleanor was along with alice roosevelt her cousin theodore's oldest daughter far better known at that moment when they got together their honeymoon two, long story to go into but simply to say it was right out of a if discovering that he had married the niece the president was a sort of citizen cain moment for franklin. ah now, my destiny will be fulfilled he in coming down with hives on their honeymoon in doing what he wanted to do. not so much what they wanted to do and dominating her in a certain kind of way. that was to say i'm going to do what i want to do and you'll follow me suggested that they were not as well matched as they might have seen to people. in fact, it was going to be a marriage of unfulfillment.
and i think they discovered it to both of their shock on the honeymoon and pretty quickly as children began to appear. it was clear that their their marriage was going to be a complicated uh relationship that was dominated by his mother and by the old expectations of the old world that both of them didn't really have a place in both wanted to to emerge from quickly. let me stick with you david. i'll give you a couple of quotes and then maybe you could tell the we're gonna really have to fast forward you maybe quickly. tell a lucy mercer story for those who might not know it you write similar to what you were just saying as a couple they were foiled eleanor and old young woman married to an eternally young man. he endured her seriousness and intensity as she endured his pranks and swordplay for franklin the princely boyish world of his upbringing remained a source of entitlement his whole life. he was not intentionally unkind but he could be cold his sense
of fun was often cruel. just one more quote. she is addicted to frankness that would blaze headline to cross the nation observed later a washington columnist. he wrote her husband's first thing was to tell a partial truth. he was a bender effect and so holy trusted his own trickiness that he believes no one would catch on maybe just briefly tell that she catch on and what discover about lucy mercer this is lucy mercer was a young woman in washington from a similar background a alcoholic father and a very social mother they too had sort of fallen down and lucy got a job with eleanor as eleanor's personal secretary when eleanor had mastered the trade of political wife. she was extremely good at at sorting out all the different washington games and and and functions that a politician's wife franklin was about the the fifth most powerful in the under
cabinet and it was an important spot as assistant secretary the navy eleanor as his wife was very much in charge of what she was doing and did it very well, but it also was overwhelming and as another child was was on the way in 1914 as she was pregnant in 1913. lucy came into the household and almost immediately franklin lost his heart to her. it was a relationship that took place over a number of years and we can see it, you know in 1917. as the united states is in the war and franklin's consumed with with war and and the navy department and as eleanor is herself now about to be consumed in her own contribution and education from the war in the red cross army canteen, lucy mercer and franklin had a relationship a love affair that eleanor discovered by accident when franklin returned from europe from a navy department
trip to the front he was suffering from the symptoms of a flu spanish flu no doubt from the troop ship he was on and in his luggage was a packet a parcel a number of we don't quite know how many or what it quite looks like but some number of letters was she came across in his suitcase that was made quite clear that he had and she had that is lucy and and franklin had both lost. it's to one another and that a new relationship was going to have to be forged if eleanor and franklin were going to move forward fdr could not have gotten divorced and kept his standing as the politician he was and that he wanted to be and lucy mercer was not the iron frame on which to stretch his life. his mother made this very clear to him. i think he knew this. anyway, i think it took eleanor to stand up to my mom. lucy mercer would have been a
divorced it would have been marrying a divorcement would have been married a catholic. it was not something that was going to work in in the politics the democratic party at the time, although when franklin did run as vice president as soon as 1920 he ran with a with a divorced candidate mr. cox, but if fdr was to be who he was to be with eleanor eleanor had to be at the heart of his life and he knew that i think his mother in this his mother was absolutely not in favor of a divorce and she was very much in favor of eleanor and i think they both formed at the time eleanor and her mother a bond that that sorted out certain things about how the relationship was going to move forward lucy and franklin never stopped seeing each other and you know, she returns in the story. i don't think a significantly and i don't think i'm very curious about the leadest point of view, but my sense is that polio itself and the
rearrangement of their lives after polio is far more important than the rearrangement of life post lucy mercer. so i may switch a slightly. there's lovely quote in the book alito. david says marital resentment can have the effect of turning people, inward and selfish franklin and eleanor turned outward. the more disappointed they were by each other the more readily they took on the problems of the world. so if you want to respond to what david just said, and then maybe you can talk your your focuses and really on her focus of the problems of the world. maybe you can comment on that. well, i think david is an extraordinary writer. i think he's put his hard and soul into this book. i think we should all read the book. this is my third conversation with david where i am beat the desk saying go by the book i have to say there's some major disagreements that i have with david and one, you know and one
of the major ones is that franklin a was ready to do anything when he got married. he was a dandy boy. okay, i mean, this is a man who? was marked by politicians. this was a man who could even give a coherent political campaign. speech. and eleanor had more of an engaged active career than franklin did. and so eleanor where i think what david and i totally agree on is that to define eleanor roosevelt by lucy mercer is to define. i don't know christmas tree by the grinch. okay, i mean it's just you know, it's just it's not there and what happened i think is that
eleanor. um loved being in washington not because of the social duties. she hated that that's why she hired lucy what she liked about washington was being able to work with the organizations. not the junior league. but the international working women's league the international committees and pause and tours of war and what she ended up doing was learning how to manage the household how to welcome politicians in albany how to welcome wheelers and dealers in washington, but not leave the conversations. otherwise left eleanor stayed so that by the time lucy hits allen or feels betrayed not just because franklin is her husband.
but that she has sacrificed so much of her independence to try to make this work. so that when they come back together. it show a remark. i tell a i it takes remarkable maturity. to pull this off i you know for for parents to school age teachers, i look at the roosevelt marriage at this point as a venn diagram. you know they have their they have their separate lives and then they have the time that are in the middle and what's in the middle is is bad velcro was super grew on it. that you know, the marriage disintegrates when that velcro in the middle erase, you know collapses and there are two things that do that i think. first of all is when louie howe dies in 1935 blanche cook is
absolutely correct. and the second thing that really rips it apart. is harry hopkins whom eleanor brought into the white house? who really supported when fdr turned on him and when heck turns on him when the war comes and hopkins says goodbye to the new deal and becomes the associate president after your there is no sinner. and they began to figure out how to live distinctly separate lives in the same institution. and one point, i think that that is very important. and and david makes this point blanche makes this point jeff ward makes this point i make this point. after polio the roosevelt's never spend more than six months a year together.
they are always more apart than they are together. she's traveling he's traveling and so they figure out how to coexist in a way that gives him the space to become the people they become and i think that is i don't know the word for it the most immense contribution. to america and itch most perilous time then i can think of. imagine the great depression without eleanor roosevelt imagine world war two without eleanor roosevelt because without alan are there would not have been fdr in the white house. um, we're running so short on time. let's have david one of you talk about the white house years, but her especially her public role. and then i'm gonna have a leader
talk about the post presidential years that david give us a order to about you know, what she meant to the country during those years in the white house and how she communicated with the country. i'm in a quote alita because elita said something quite wonderful about women in the white house, which is that the white house eats women and and eleanor after the white house after eleanor. the white house was never the same for women women were a part of a a eleanor was a proxy. she was a proxy for people where people came to the president eleanor came to you. i think one of the most important things she did right away was that she made the first lady a mobile? separate part of the institution her if you were in the middle of this country in june of 1933 and life seemed pretty bad and you heard overhead a plane and you looked up and you saw that in
that little winged machine the first lady the united states was going to california. that was a little glimmer of hope something was going right things might work out after all and who was she anyway. um eleanor brought herself to people but she also brought out of people something that i think that you saw you see in figures like muhammad ali you see in figures like perhaps mohammad mahatma gandhi, but you see somebody who's bringing people wanted to be their best selves around her they wanted when when she saw them connected with them they were on best behavior. but also she brought out of them the feeling they could give something not just to her but to their communities to the country. i think eleanor also in her size and in her easy way that she had finally with people having gotten out of her own shyness having brought her voice which we think of as being a high flooding is actually quite
modulated and wonderful when she was close up with people. she brought people into a feeling of a closeness to something that was before that moment. utterly foreign or something enormous. she brought it down to size. she was as much of main street as she was of of the white house. and and i think this is something that that you don't see again for a long long time in in first lady them. she also made sure that that people understood that they did have a voice in washington and that she did bring i mean she literally was practical pragmatic her uncle ted had given a sense i think of government as a pragmatic place you could she and franklin in there separateness could be disinterested. they could be pragmatic. they try things they experimented they were willing to try again and again and again, see if it worked. oh it didn't fit that. well, there's an underlying problem. let's look at the problem. there was a continuousness in
her that people often criticize eleanor for not having follow through or not coming to conclusions. i found it difficult myself thinking. oh i got to bring this to a conclusion. well, sometimes she didn't bring things to a conclusion. move on to the next thing and that motion that sense of forward motion of continuous optimism of hope pragmatism and challenging the slow walking of everything washington made her when you see people's descriptions, even of the way she walked in the white house the the rapidity the movement the continuousness you really get a sense of of how fluid she made this this previously utterly paralytic almost job. this is an odd photograph. we're looking at it for sitting down. that's that's exactly what she wasn't doing most of the time. so, i think what eleanor did was she she created an entirely new version of a woman she of a first lady and of the
president's wife on there was we think now of the first lady it's a sort of tradition now that she has one cause you know, michelle obama this, you know, mrs. is literacy michelle obama had nutrition eleanor was not she was holistic, you know, she was not a she was an equal opportunity first lady. she had many constituents and constituencies and causes and and above and beyond that. she also had a voice that was a real voice with a real with real opinions and her column. my day was just an extraordinary in that way as indicated newscom newspaper column that appeared every morning. no first lady had ever done anything like that from 1935 until her death. she connected to people as a neighbor as a concerned citizen as a friend as first lady in a voice. that was so familiar. it would be a voice that you would want to respond to want to do something want to contribute.
she had a continuousness in writing and in her voice and in her appearances in the newsreel, you saw so much more of the first lady you heard her. out her presence in ways that that didn't repeat itself for years. in fact. i'll lead why don't you talk about the white house years children just use a quote here from david's book a justice douglas said fdr had few around him, except eleanor who told him he was wrong. she was his antenna and i noticed he usually followed her advice a jim farley fdr had complete faith in her judgment and her ability to observe just maybe a few words about eleanor and the white house years. well, i think a lot of people talk about her observation. they don't talk about her understanding of policy and how to get it through. you know and if you look at some of the landmark pieces of legislation that came out of the white house, i mean especially
in well in the two sections of the new deal, you know the in the first one hundred days, i mean fdr puts the economy act forward and it fires all the women who are married to federally employed men eleanor leaps to her pen is blanche would say and in the same paper side by side tails her husband, he's wrong. he backs down the women get their jobs back, you know their problems with the social security act. eleanor goes in behind the scenes and tag teams with francis perkins to get part of the social security act through if you look at the national youth administration, which is the first form of a americorps, this is totally eleanor and bethune if you look, at women in the ccc camps. that's bethune if you look at the federal theater project the federal writer's project the
federal dance project the whole role of government in preserving people's voices and art combatting fear. that's totally eleanor roosevelt if you look behind the scenes to organize democratic senators who were very leery of this the fair wage and standard jack which gave us minimum wages and maximum hours. eleanor is emily involved in that when there is the major debate over the world court and should the united states be involved in the world court. who does the white house send out to debate the two republican senators against it eleanor roosevelt and she had her own career and was such a successful journalist. not just my day but monthly indicated columns book contracts her first book is march 1933, you know, it's up to the women.
she by the end of her time in the white house her publications are paying her more money than fdr makes as president. let me bring up the slide of fdr and his last days and david. maybe you can just briefly tell the story of his death and her role in its aftermath. fdr died in april 12, 1945 and warm springs of a cerebral hemorrhage while he was posing for a portrait that was being painted by a woman named adam schumachov with him was his cousin laura delano and lucy mercer had reappeared from aiken, south carolina where she had been reappearing in his white hat later white house. here's as he grew sick and as he was his life was coming to to a close as the war itself was was dragging on fdr found some solace or some enjoyment and
pleasure in remeding lucy a facilitated by anna. they're eleanor and franklin's daughter. i i don't see an enormous myself. i don't see an enormous significance in the fact that lucy was there and eleanor was an eleanor was was doing her own work. she was part of a entire. she's probably the most important of the roosevelt administration at that moment in terms of notizing how things were about to go with the creation of what ellen fdr had named and dreamed of the united nations that she had some thoughts of her own about that about almost everything at that point. he her her main i think to country at this moment, which was a moment of terrible trauma people losing their president of 12 years and in losing their president their war leader. we're losing a figure a primitive a primal sense of loss a father a chieftain a some you
were what people were rocked to their core and and eleanor stepped forward and made a very firm and clear statement about how the country was going to move forward and one of the first things she did when she saw harry truman who was summoned from she herself was brought back from a a talk. she was given and sense what was happening. she was told the president was dead. she was in washington at the sawgrave club. she came back to the white house and harry truman was summoned from the senate and he walked in and and came upstairs and and there was this is roosevelt and there was a anna roosevelt and and several of roosevelt's you know assistance and so forth and she stepped forward and she's harry. the president is dead and harry truman looked at eleanor roosevelt and said mrs. roosevelt. what can what can we do for you? and she said harry? what can we do for you for
you're the one who is now in trouble and i think that in the transfer from that moment forward for the next few days and she got out of the white house in record time everything she did was for harry truman as president of the united states one of the more unlikely presidents ever to set to step into the job. he was sworn in that afternoon by the time by that time eleanor was on her way to warm springs. she had i wanted to say very quickly. she had buried dozens of roosevelt. she was practically the family undertaker eleanor had been called upon from her earliest days to bury her relatives. she was constantly visiting funeral of a cemeteries and making sure stones were proper properly placed and so forth. she was as pragmatic and as realistic about the event of someone's death. she also i think felt very strongly that what was most
important now was carrying forward that she on her fell her husband's legacy, but also on the transfer of power to harry truman, which was as i said unlikely was was as much was as important as anything to do with frank the the memory of franklin roosevelt himself and a memorializing friend. she did an extraordinary job with his and dignified job with um his funeral which she saw through from from warm springs back up to to washington and into the white house and then on to hyde park and and the rose garden she created a figure of dignity and a figure of courage that people remembered about for years we really are getting into the last minutes, which is too badly because i know there's so much to talk about on the post presidential period and post white house years and david. i thought it was one of the most fascinating parts of the book,
but alida tell us the role that she plays as kind of a world states in the world states woman. well briefly put the last letter that she writes when she's leaving the white house. ends with this. for those of us who've lived in franklin shadow. mom, which come when we must wonder what we can achieve under our own momentum. within two weeks people have asked her to be secretary of labor run for the governor of new york be had the most preeminent private college in the united states. run. what would be the first major liberal political pact and to be a political director of a union she says know that. she wants to speak with her own voice. and december truman called her
to appoint her to the united nations because she has become his major critic. he appoints her to the un to get her out of the country because he is not give them hell harriet. he's basically clueless on wage and price and rent controls. she turns him down her son and her secretary basically say, are you flipping kidding me? you've been in war zones twice you spent five weeks in the pacific you flew on unpressed aircraft and blew out your ear drum. you have walked the carters of hospitals, you know, all the major leaders of the world and you are not going to take this flipping job. so she calls him back. she takes it she goes over there arthur vandenberg and the boys as she calls them. she's the only woman on the
delegation appoint her to committee three the committee on social humanitarian and cultural concerns thinking that she us any trouble there because their co-concerned with the bomb they've totally forgotten about refugees refugees becomes the major issue in the first session of the general assembly eleanor becomes the point person on that out debates the great russian debater and then is unanimously appointed by the entire body of the un all 51 nations to chair the the nation what will become the human condition on human rights the united states opposed, but had to be convinced to support her. out of that comes with her negotiation the single most important political document of the post-war era. which is the universal declaration of human rights now,
why do i make that claim? it is used as the model for more constitutions and more state governments than our own constitution and our own bill of rights. it has been used in every single piece and reconciliation. civil war negotiation of the past 40 years was used in iraq. it was used in afghanistan. it was used in pakistan liberia brazil, peru and in it, although it is the last article that is negotiated out of the 30. it the article that has been adopted into international law even by the conservative united states supreme court. and that is article one all human beings are more freak and equal in dignity and in rights
they are endowed with reason and should treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. okay as i look at my watch i have a minute, so i'll try honest to god tom to tell the story in a minute. they takes her. three years more than 300 meetings that last more than 30,000 hours. she meets with every member every employee diplomat career service and janitorial and food service in the un to get their buy-in to this document in order to negotiate it she had to work with members of 18 countries who don't agree on god government marriage childhood private property the right to travel what the purpose of citizenship is. they agree on nothing. other than by god, they beat the germans.
and so in the cut if the countries didn't like the delegates, they would send somebody else. it was like, you know musical chairs on who was going to negotiate this but at the 11th hour she gets this. article one that is the first time in the history of the world. that men women and children of all races all regions all ethnicities. all religions are treated equally. in a covenant she also makes a faithful decision because she wants this to be legally binding and for two years she works on a bill, but she realizes that's not going to happen and she says the greatest thing she says lawyers will debate three years where to put a comma so what we have to have is we have to have a vision for the world to hold
to be a counter force to the holocaust the bomb 60 million refugees and jim crow in the united states. and that decision worked because it takes more than 25 years to get the covenants on political and civil rights social economic and cultural. right? but the declaration is there in forming government and building movements. and david mentioned that she receives a standing ovation when she walks into the general assembly on december 10th, 1940 the first standing ovation in the history of the united nations and let me just say one thing about her ability to negotiate. she treats the soviets even though she is just -- with them. there is no word to describe it. other than that, i mean even in my day, which is now syndicated
throughout europe she is taking on the russians in her column as she is negotiating with them, but they see who she is. she understands how to negotiate with them and she convinces the soviet block to abstain. not to oppose but to abstain and that is a mark of fierce fierce negotiations forget diplomacy. this is power politics to the ants degree. so, let's see the last slide. i want to bet you what david to tell a more personal story. so first, we just have a couple of slides of this is roosevelt and her later years. she's the kind of titular head of the democratic party. she endorses adelaide stevenson and the 50s begrudgingly endorses john f kennedy because
the she's a little worried that he's not that he dodged to vote censoring joe mccarthy, but here she is actually after jfk president on the set of a program called prospect of mankind a monthly tv program was taped at brandeis university was shown on wgbh and let's see the next slide alf and we'll have oh, there's a very slight interesting slide with the cartoon that david mentioned and the book the young boy saying, of course, i know who that is. this is roosevelt pointing at the statue of liberty, but now let's see the next can i say one thing? about that cartoon actually talks a little girl. not a little boy. okay, good. okay, and the second thing is this was released that day after eleanor says to joe mccarthy if you want to call me, i'll come. he and that's why herblock does
this cartoon. it's not a saccharine saint. sweet eleanor cartoon it is like you want me to go to congress and defend and stand up to joe mccarthy when not one democrat will. when when jack kennedy runs away? call me. i'll come that's what that cartoon is. and that cartoon was at the top of her stairwell in her home vacuole and she saw it every night. she understood exactly what that meant. thank you earlier for explaining. all right now, let me go back to the jfk had been on the set. now. this is this is a roosevelt and david you pick up. what worth seeing in this picture. well here i thought we were going to be in the white house with president kennedy announcing the peace corps on prospects of my mankind. we're actually in london and on
the mrs roosevelt in the center on the right as paul noble one of the producers and on the left is my mother who was one of the producers of prospects of mankind and notably the only woman here and it's there's a burton russell behind and a group of men here. this is a typical day on the set. although they happen to be in england for this particular broadcast, but it my mother spoke frequently when i was a child about eleanor and i think one of the reasons eleanor roosevelt was a enormous presence in my household. i kind of thought actually she we were related to her in some way although of course, so did david geffen and other people who had mrs. roosevelt icons on their kitchen. hanging where their mothers and grandmothers had hunt the thing that's important was important to me about writing about eleanor roosevelt and about
looking eleanor roosevelt and listening to alida describe the true history of eleanor roosevelt and i commend everybody by the way to the works of alita black because you are missing something if you have not included those on your syllabus, but the important thing here is the is that we all i thought i was born in 1957. we all thought we understood american history, but we now know we didn't and we are now rewriting history and you know, eleanor roosevelt wanted to expand democracy to include more people. she wanted my mother on this program. she wanted a woman on this program. we did not have an inclusive multiracial democracy during eleanor roosevelt 78 years of life from 1884 to 1962. and until she was 36 years old america's democratic institutions worked only for white males. let's say and all the power was held by rich white men.
let's say eleanor did not even live to see the voting rights act of 1964 for what that's worth now. she did not live to see the united states outlaw my violence and lynching. but what we are listening and hearing today and why eleanor speaks to us today is about this fight. we're now engaged in another fight for the survival of democracy and it's about not just that. it's about the right to vote of course, which is the central one i think but about gender equity and about patriotism what that is and about america's place in a global and international world eleanor still stands for what she stood for then fearlessness compassion service dedication hard work. i think what she stands for even more though is the idea of change and of of accepting and and and reaching for change continuously in in fearlessly, and and this is why i think we're we're going to keep
hearing the story told again and again in its in it the suggestion that you could we could ever figure even into an hour is insane. there is so much more to eleanor and i commend you back to the works of elite a black and i also commend people to to understanding eleanor in and of herself really as a person not just simply as a political here, but also is a political figure she has so much to give us can we end with an eleanor quote? yeah, well, let's go to the next slide because we're all yes we can but let's just oh my suitcase. sorry what? okay, we're gonna give well just go for another two two or three minutes. okay this matter, but we're giving up just an endorsement to one of our coach sponsors, which is the franklin d roosevelt presidential library and museum and this lovely picture of mrs. roosevelt's well known, but i remember turning the corner and then when you actually see the suitcase of this is actually how it displayed at the fdr library
and museum is the wonderful institution where david and alita has both been hours doing research and our health, and i'm a twisty. i just want to say it's holy ground. just leave it with that. but this picture was taken in 1960 on a tarmac in laguardia. after eleanor had basically browbeat john kennedy into agreeing to come to a civil rights gathering at abyssinian baptist church in harlem, which is where he says that he will abolish federally discrimination and family supported family financing with one stroke of the pen. she traveled without secret service. she carried her own luggage. okay, that that is her suitcase that she gave to maureen core her great secretary when when
eleanor died eleanor goes this this case goes with her to chicago where she spends us almost six days in and out of black churches and labor halls jack kennedy becomes president because he wins illinois by 220 something thousand votes he was behind until eleanor went to chicago because nixon had the better civil rights record. he went chicago by the black vote and the labor vote that eleanor receives because bobby went after hoffa. and jack voted to weaken the civil rights act. so this suitcase encapsulates everything but what she would say to you quote. okay, because this is what david
is saying and it's democracy is only as strong as its weakest link. here and the last senate she ever wrote. not for publication was this staying aloof is not a solution. it is a cowardly evasion. very nice david. you have a final word and then i'll close this out. i strongly recommend that everyone if they ever have the chance visit the rose garden where franklin and eleanor roosevelt lie in rest, it is a shocker to find eleanor roosevelt there in her mother-in-law's garden and yet at the same time, there's something quite lovely and wonderful about seeing them both together there forever. i've never failed to walk into the rose garden without being terribly moved by these two
purposeful lives that were joined i think in a sense unlike almost any other couple i can think of in a shared idea about the people and about doing things for the people and for the people and in with every sense that a a commonplace solution could be found or some kind of solution could be found to help people build better lives in america and therefore build a better america, but primarily to help people build better lives. that's the exceptional i think the what's exceptional about the roosevelt's and not american exceptionalism. it's about their consideration of human individuals as individuals, but also as the people and allen was a simpler club more personal quote where she from david's book. you have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing as you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give. david alita you gave us the best you have to give tonight.