As a teacher (and forever a student) of US History, one of my favorite presidents is Franklin Roosevelt. Whether or not one agrees with his policy actions, the thing that most impresses me when I read about Roosevelt is how in tune with the American people he was throughout his time in office. Sure he made mistakes while president, but his overarching goal never wavered. He wanted people to feel safe and secure. Much like Ronald Reagan decades later, FDR was able much of the time to say just the right thing at just the right time to give people a sense of peace during troubled times. It would be nice if we had that kind of leadership currently.
In reading about FDR this morning, I was also reminded about how he wasn’t just focused on the present crises. He also looked with hope towards a better tomorrow. He believed in the goodness of people and that we, together, could literally make the world a better place.
In his “Four Freedoms” speech, FDR didn’t just talk about freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear for Americans. Even in the isolationist mood of the times, Roosevelt stated that those freedoms should be “everywhere in the world.” This was also not a “vision of a distant millennium…It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
What FDR realized sooner than many other leaders of his day and since was that the world was, and still is, getting smaller. We are more connected than we ever have been at any other time, and because of that, it’s more important than ever that we as a people should realize that we are all in this world together. We should all have the same access to the same rights…everywhere in the world.
Just before Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945, he prepared the text of a speech that he was to deliver as a radio address to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. He died the day before the radio address took place. In this final, undelivered speech, FDR again was looking ahead to a future without depression, war, or genocide. In words still worth reading today, he wrote:
“Today, science has brought all the different quarters of the globe so close together that it is impossible to isolate them one from another. Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together, in the same world, at peace…The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”