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The Road from FDR to GWB: Reflections After Visiting the Memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the Mall

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I recently made my first visit to the new(ish) FDR memorial on the Mall. I recall having seen the statue of Roosevelt sitting in a chair some years ago, but I did not until this past Thursday ever witness the beautiful and moving granite procession with which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is now honored-- a memorial very different from the white marble temples erected to Jefferson and Lincoln nearby, but with a comparably rich impact on the viewer.

I will not attempt to capture in words the nature of this construction, mostly in red-tinged granite, but will focus rather on some of the words of FDR that are carved there in those stone walls.

His words I found very moving. Imagine having a president who thought this way. A president who spoke this way.

Contrast that man who led America through two historic crises with his present successor, whose presidency is itself a national crisis.

Said FDR:

"I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust."

He meant it. His successor has done nothing but betray that trust.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

FDR was born to privilege, but somehow had come to deep compassion for those who were "ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished." His present successor was also born to privilege, but has never progressed beyond an arrogant feeling of entitlement.

Inscribed there in granite are FDR's words:

"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded.I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed.I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."

His present successor freely chose the path of war, and as E.L. Doctorow wrote in a scathing piece in 2004, he seems insensible to the sufferings of others, able only to mouth the words of compassion.

The last of FDR's famous "Four Freedoms," upon which he hoped a future world would be founded:

"Freedom from fear."

Need I say more?
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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