FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy

By Mark J. Rozell; William D. Pederson | Go to book overview

4
When Henry Met Franklin

Martin Halpern

In the film Annie!, Little Orphan Annie persuades the obstreperous business tycoon Oliver P. Warbucks to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt. As one of the forgotten people of whom FDR spoke, Annie is a Roosevelt supporter who has been inspired by the president's hopeful message. Due to Annie's presence at the meeting, FDR is able to persuade Warbucks to join in singing the optimistic and humanistic song Tomorrow." The greedy businessperson is clearly on his way toward a moral transformation. The coupling of Roosevelt's charm and the appeal of the needy, as represented by Annie, is irresistible. Of course, compared with Ebenezer Scrooge, Warbucks suffers little on his way to redemption.

Annie!, of course, is fiction, and a fantasy at that. In fact, it's a revisionist fantasy. Harold Gray's comic strip Little Orphan Annie was anti-New Deal. In one strip, for example, the self-reliant Annie says, "I never thought I'd rather be in a 'home' . . . but that was 'fore I knew there could be anybody like Mrs. Bleating-Hart. . . . But I don't want to be a 'public charge' if I can help it! At least here I'm earning my way and not livin' off o' taxpayers!" Sounding very much like Henry Ford, the comic strip self-made millionaire individualist Oliver Warbucks proclaims, "I see nothing so unusual in sharing our profits with our workers--when our business makes money I feel all those connected with it should make money. . . . I think [our

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