THIRTY-ONE

Franklin D. Roosevelt
1933-45

"Look out you don't make the mistake of liking Roosevelt," warned a New York Republican leader when a friend of his was making plans to call on Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt ( 1882-1945). "I've seen people taken in by it.""By what?" asked the friend. The Republican leader hesitated a moment, then burst out: "By a perfectly grand political personality, you fool!" 1

For a long time some people thought that all Franklin Roosevelt had was a grand personality. "He is," wrote Walter Lippmann in a famous column for the New York Herald Tribune in January 1932, "a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President." When Roosevelt read Lippmann's comments, he grinned, turned over a page, noted a headline -- "Ubangi Natives Arriving Today" -- and read aloud from the article: "All have wooden discs in their lips and will fill a vaudeville engagement here". Commented FDR: "I could suggest one political writer for the same circuit. His comments have about the same relation to actuality -- interesting and perhaps pleasing to some, but just as distorted as the faces of those savages." 2 Roosevelt was right; Lippmann's assessment fell short of the mark. Roosevelt was more than a charmer. As Governor of New York he had shown himself to be thoughtful, energetic, compassionate, and open to experiment when it came to coping with the Great Depression. And as President he was to display remarkable gifts for leadership in a time of crisis.

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