tv Michael Burgess Franklin Eleanor in New York CSPAN August 6, 2022 2:47pm-3:27pm EDT
its own problems publicly. people, you know, so there was a controversy about that as well. anybody else of but they will. yeah, yeah. okay. well, let me just tell everyone now i want you to get a chance to look at the book. be sure and look when oviedo was the head of the wax and she had to fight the army over their attempts to make pregnancy without permission a reason for giving someone dishonorable discharge and ruining their lives and she won that battle also bylike to thank michael bus
for being here today. well, thank you very much. and it's quite an honor to be here at the fdr library and let me tell you a little bit about why i wrote the book and a little bit about myself. i actually as was mentioned have worked in the field of aging so obviously social security was something of great interest to me. and i was here in 1985 at the 50th anniversary of social security on august 14th. there were 7,000 people here there were people from human services groups and unions and so forth and i came back in 2005 when the 70th anniversary was held actually in '85 fdr junior
was the mc and mario cuomo was the keynote speaker claude pepper in 2005. it was paul krugman was the speaker was the smaller occasion and then in 19 in 2010. i didn't come here but for the 75th anniversary, i was serving as the director of the state office for the aging and we had a program at the capitol and albany and also at roosevelt house down in new york city that i was at having worked in state government. i was always interested in you know, what was it like when fdr was governor because i worked for governor spitzer you remember him and david patterson. and i worked as a lobbyist and helped with with mario cuomo. we passed the elderly pharmaceutical insurance coverage bill epic. so that was something i worked on so i had a lot of involvement with that the other thing all the books i've written there was sort of a little personal connection and in this case in addition to my you know public
career with these issues my father who was a radio reporter. i was born up in messina new york. anybody know where that is way up on the canadian border. i grew up in watertown my father worked for radio station to messina and we had a famous family picture of him interviewing eleanor at potsdam state. then call the teacher's college in 1955. she was there of course she traveled all over and because she had the my day column i was able to go back and see what she was doing there that day, which was to visit the arts programs at the college. so that's a little bit of the background. i felt you know, i'm not a professional historian. i'm not a professional writer, but i i guess somebody said i'm
a storyteller. i wanted to know what the story was about what the years in albany were as governor. he came to albany in 1911 elected to the state senate in 1910. this is the republican area, but he won as a democrat he was you know, he was a reformer. the democratic party was tammany hall in those days in new york city. and he wasn't he wasn't exactly. well, like some people thought
he was kind of arrogant including francis perkins. who was the lobbyist in those days back in that time. she lobbied for the consumers league after the famous triangle shirtwaist fire and she thought, you know, he's a tall guy. he's got those pinched glasses and he sort of like looks like he's looking down his nose action. he's saying yes. yes, i understand and she never knew you know, whether he really supported the bills that she was pushing. in this short time. i'm going to focus mostly on albany, but you probably know this story. you know, we went to the assistant secretary of the navy underwood woodrow wilson, and then he was the democratic vice presidential candidate in 1920 at the age of 38 his career seemed destined. to go to the white house or to be a candidate for president. so i we keep that in mind we think of them as the most successful president of all time elected four times the shoe in he was wealthy. his name was roosevelt his his cousin was teddy. his wife was eleanor who was teddy was her aunt as you know, but then polio and actually you'd say it was kind of amazing that he did become president. he was no shoe and after that. campobello island the family home in 1921 he gets polio he's unable to walk ever again without being aided. and his political career is kind of up in the air if at all, i mean lewis house sort of he was his campaign manager if you remember his name. and he said to eleanor, you know, you need to get out there and you know represent him and
be keeping be public. she had been you know a mother in house housewife or whatever for many years, but she was interested and became involved with the league of women voters and the consumers league women had just gotten the right to vote. and in 1924 she wasn't too happy that going to the 24th democratic convention. that tammany hall bosses were going to pick the women who were going there. so she said at the ten eyck hotel in albany to many women and i am one of them. it's extraordinaryly difficult to care about anything enough to cause disagreement or unpleasant feelings, but i've come to the conclusion that this must be done for a time until we can prove our strength and demand respect for our wishes. sounds just like her. but she started to become active. you know, she always said i'm only doing this until my husband can do it again. i will substitute for him, but she became very active.
i found it interesting that in 1924. al smith was the governor running for re-election against and i didn't know any of this will tell you about research this teddy roosevelt jr. who said i'm the real heir to my father not franklin. he's from hyde park. we're from oyster bay, okay. but eleanor it's her cousin. she campaigned against him put the teapot dome on a truck. i think she went around lewis howe instigated it all and he lost to al smith. franklin goes to warm springs as many of you know and discovers, you know that the water is good for him. he's able to stand in the water. and he keeps his involvement a little bit with politics in 1924. he's well enough to go to the convention and to al smith for president. as you smith is not when that was the famous conventionally where 103 ballots and the republican calvin coolidge won that election. in 1928 al smith's running again for president he gets the nomination. and the he needs somebody to run
for governor on the in the ticket here in new york. and he's thinking i need somebody well known. i like roosevelt. he's a friend of mine. i would like him to run new york was a swing state. can you believe that in 1928 swing state? tammany hall upstate agriculture and business wall street so fdr doesn't want to run he's down in warm springs smith and eleanor are at eleanor's active. she's at the convention in rochester the state convention. smith wants to get wants of fdr on the line. he stays away from the phone and away from the house. finally honor says, okay. i'm not going to promote this with them, but i'll get them on the line smith convinces him. it's his duty to do it. and you know, he decides yes as a good soldier the party i will run. louis howe and eleanor didn't
want him to run lewis howe had said it's not a good year to run. the republicans are riding high. it's the roaring twenties and if you lose you're gonna be blamed. they're going to blame it on your health condition and say that you you didn't didn't win because of that. so he accepts the domination and he decides that he's going to go out on the campaign trail smith was like you don't need to worry about the campaign herbert lehman the lieutenant governor candidate. he can do a lot of this you can make a few speeches. fdr goes out sort of barnstorms the state all over the state traveling and by car another, you know all over the state. in rochester he campaigns and says i think one of the most depressing oppressing things i have to do on occasion in this state is visit the county pour house. somehow it just tears my heart to see these old men and women there more than anything. i know we need to drastic revision of the poor laws and i propose to recommend it. so he was already thinking in his platform. there was a movement the townsend movement for old age pensions, and he's already thinking about it.
his his campaigning and he says to the press no movies of me getting out of the machine boys. okay, and they obliged the media he had to be carried up a fire escape into a meeting hall and jimmy his son who came back from another trip to europe with granny to help in the campaign came close to tears again when he saw his father being lifted like a sack of potatoes. these were not scenes that the public saws, you know, very few people knew the difficulty that he had getting in and out of cars and wheelchairs and so forth election night smith loses big the kkk anti-catholic bigotry he loses fdr goes to bed thinks. he's not going to win either. but he had a charming way. he was from upstate.
he campaigned upstate. he was a person, you know who from this community who understood agriculture. he had been chair of the conservation committee when he was in the state senate. he goes to betty wakes up. he's he wins by 25,000 votes because he cut the margin in upstate new york that smith lost by we were the largest state in the country by the way with 47 electoral votes in 1928. so anyway fdr is going to become governor on january 1st 1929 before he gets to albany. yes, the state superintendent of buildings and grounds if they could put a get rid of the greenhouses in the back of the governor's mansion in albany and put a swimming pool in. and they did that because that way he could continue his therapy. he had not wanted to run because he thought if he spent a few more years going to warm springs that he would improve much more now. he did keep going there, you know even as governor he'd take
long vacation, so january 1st 1929 he is. inaugurated as governor eleanor continues to teach at the todd hunter school and she is down there like from sunday to wednesday. i want to give you a little flavor about. what it was like living in the you know in albany at that time albany was the middle of prohibition albany was described as being dripping wet. roosevelt himself felt that prohibition should be left to the states sound familiar with what we're going going on with now and of course new york probably wouldn't have gone along with that. so francis perkins and her one of her books or biographies of fdr describe the mansion there were nieces and nephews cousins school friends of the roosevelt boys roosevelt moved in this
family commotion with joyous relish. they entertained a great deal inviting people to dinner from all over the state. if a person came from a distance there was often an invitation to spend the night at the executive mansion night after night every bed was full and visiting friends of long acquaintance were asked to double up so it was very busy place not quite the way it is right now and albany in terms of all of the families living there and the recent governors i wanted to read to you also a little bit about his remarks in his inaugural address in albany on january 1st, 1929 and see what you might think of what was to come later in life. to ensure more of life's pleasure for the farmer to guard
toilers in the factories and to ensure them a fair wage and protection from the dangers of the trade to compensate them by adequate insurance for injuries received while working for us to open the doors of knowledge to their children more widely to aid those who are crippled and ill to pursue a strict justice all evil persons who pray upon their fellow men and by intelligent and helpful sympathy to lead wrongdoers into right
paths all of these great aims of life are more fully realized here than an any other state of the union. he believed new york was the progressive capital at that time. so he set out to be, you know, he's 12.6 million people in the state 10.4 million and from in 1920. the population was rising. i mentioned 47 electoral votes. one woman in the legislature wrote a fox graves of governor saint, lawrence county okay. he immediately has to deal with hiring a good staff smith stinks. well, you know i can he lost i'm going to stick around and help him out if i can he wants robert moses who is his secretary of state to stay and he wants bell moskowitz who was his top one of his top aged to stay but roosevelt eleanor says, you won't be governor if those two
are running the show. so he picks his own people ed flynn was secretary of state and he had some other aids and of course, you know, he kept francis perkins and made her the first cabinet member in new york state history and then later of course in washington the same thing and later. he would hire harry hopkins and his friend henry morganthaw from down this way and samuel rosenman was a speech writer and attorney there. he jousted with the legislature there was so much. i found it's like it's like it
is now, you know, he's complaining that they spent all three months trying to do the budget and then they passed all these bills at the end and sent him to his desk. the fireside chats in washington, they began in albany on wgy radio schenectady, which was the home of general electric. really? i think the first it might have been the first radio station in the country still there still strong on 810. you could probably pick it up. francis perkins said when he talked on the radio, he saw them the people in the little parlor listening with their neighbors his voice and his facial expression where that of an intimate friend. he thought that if he used the radio and think of this the radio was new sort of like the other guy just did twitter. he thought that was new and he get to the people fdr said the radio helps me because the newspapers some of them upstairs controlled by my opponents and
also, you know conservative papers elsewhere. so he thought this was a good way to go around them. so, you know. they got the budget done that year. he had a fight with the legislature controlled by the republicans, even though he was a democrat elected governor. it was controlled by the republicans and he got the budget done. went to court. they sued him. they said you shouldn't be able to decide for yourself where to spend these lump sums you put in the budget but al smith had modernized government and given the governor control over the budget because prior had been done by mostly the state agencies who submitted their budget requests. so at the end of the session he went on the radio and did his fireside chat, which he used for teaching people. he thought that the it's a great thing that i liked about him was that he thought that education the governor should be educating to people as to the process about how democracy works. i wish we had more of that now, and then you know what he did he'd go to warm springs for a while, but then he decided to go around touring the state. drive around in the summer he went with eleanor and they would go out and at that time, you know, the state wasn't running what it does now all the things but they were running prisons and state psychiatric centers. and eleanor wrote and her one of her autobiographies that franklin would drive around he'd get there.
he couldn't get out of the car of course and maneuver around as well. so he would meet the building superintendent and they drive around the territory and they'd say he'd say, well, you know, we might need new facilities here or what about that building over there and franklin would talk with him. she would go inside. at first my reports were highly unsatisfactory to him. i would tell them what was on the menu. and he would say did you look to see whether the inmates actually were getting the food? so she learned to check the mattresses in closets and look under the tops of kettles on the stove. and that you think of that today, you know what governor and his wife or spouse would do has done that. it's not something that's done very often. so here were the priorities, you know in his first term old age security which i mentioned before. now i'm from up on the north in the north country saint lawrence public water power. the title to this power must vest forever in the people of the state no commission. no not the legislature itself has the right to give for any consideration whatsoever a single potential kilowatt in perpetuity to any person or corporation. public power that was actually the first thing i ever knew about him because when i was living up there that was still an issue that people were arguing over was that the municipality should take over the power companies which in my hometown of massena new york right on the border at the what's now the saint lawrence seaway. they they passed in 1974. they kicked out the power company and they today have municipal power so it's always been a big issue up there. he went up in one of his tours that first year and eleanor went with him and they went on the state. inspector it was a boat that went up the erie canal and then they made their way up into lake ontario and up the saint
lawrence river and he would meet with the people there and talk about how he wanted to develop hydropower. a fast forward that didn't happen during his term, but the saint lawrence seaway did come in 1959 and the seaway as well as the power plant. called the robert moses power plant was built in 1959, but it's also an echo, which i will relate here. to the tennessee valley authority, which came during the white house and i'm not going to be able to get into all of that, but i did want to give you that information now in 1930. the old age pension bill he there had been a study committee that was appointed. and that committee came forward with the recommendation to have some type of a program. there were two sponsors in the legislature. and they decided that they would put a bill forward in the spring of 1930. what happened in the intervening
time the great depression started? and his whole term was and his agenda turned upside down at the end of 1929. whole agenda turned upside down and this issue of old age security became very important even more so because who was laid off first older people who were older people 50 and older, okay. imagine that so you had all these people who had no social security. if they couldn't get their children to help them and live with their families they went as he said in that campaign speech to the county poor house. so they held hearings. he got letters there was a group. an advocacy group like aarp only not named that that encouraged letters. i am 80 years of age with no means of support. my son's fought in france during the world war and to our debt as a result. i'm now visiting my other son in louisiana and would like to return home soon. please advise me if such a law has been enacted and if it has
been please send me an application to fill it out. so i went and read these letters in the new york state archives in albany at the state library there and i read a few of them that are in the book and it was very interesting. but anyway the bill passed. and new york had a pension program on january 1st 1931 for person 70 and older they gave them 242 dollars a year roughly for 51,000 persons considered needy. cost 12.5 million divided between the counties and the state. he he didn't think it went far enough. he didn't. he always said even though i'm happy to sign this bill. i want to bill with a contribution so that you own it. and that of course came later in. on the francis perkins agenda, which i'll briefly say, you know, she didn't want the job when he went to washington to be secretary of labor, but he wanted her and she said if you take me here's my agenda and i was basically, you know, a lot of the new deal. 1930 he wins reelection by a
huge margin. he won by 25,000 the first time he wins by 750,000 the next time. and he won the votes of older people. he won the votes of labor. he won the votes of agriculture, but also he won all the people upset about the great depression, which they were blaming on the republican party at that time. so it was a landslide for him. and he wakes up the day after in 19. and he's the governor of the largest state in the union. who has just won a landslide? who's also said that the great depression? all the situation is serious. the time has come to for us to face. this unpleasant fact as dispassionately and constructively as a scientist faces a test tube of deadly germs. i put that in there because all throughout his story. there are epidemics he got the spanish flu in 1918 when he came back from the war in europe.
he had smallpox. he had polio in fact in 1916. he and eleanor were coming back from campobello and he was saying there had been a polio outbreak in this area or somewhere in the northeast and he was telling eleanor, you know to get the kids home that things are closing down and don't have any, you know, keep everybody at home. so this was part of life back then and he saw the depression in the context of the scientific need to look at why has this happened and how do we go about making difference and even though he said i'm a capitalist and i believe in the system. i'm going to save capitalism from itself. i'm going to have we have to have programs to put people to work. he hires harry hopkins to run the t e r a temporary employment or emergency relief act one of the other and so he comes on as one of his most trusted aides, but that is what folk the focus was and then being from hyde park and having this nice estate. he decides one of the things
that should be done with the t-e-r-a is to put people to work in a tree army. planting 10,000 trees. is that sound familiar? where did that end up? the ccc so the point of my book is really that the new deal started in albany, you know in many ways with this many of the same people with many of the same issues and they were experimenting they didn't have all of this figured out. they didn't know the depression was coming. but he had the progressive instincts to deal with it and do something about it. i have a few minutes left that i just want to tie up here and say to you a little bit about the legacy he also by the way did tax breaks for farmers. he wanted them to be able to be able to stay on the land a lot as you would know. anyway, the legacy obviously i mentioning ccc social security.
a lot of building projects with the wpa actually when he was governor of new york, they started the highway from lake placida in that area to the whiteface mountain if you've ever been up there they were doing these kinds of projects around here. you all know the rest of the history that eleanor went on. she didn't you know, as first lady i will just say this is an interesting point. he opened the lake placid olympics in 1932. and eleanor started already being her own person much more. she took the bobsled down. a few days earlier six germans had been injured coming around the last or one of the curves there. she wanted to show well, it was safe. course harry hamburger, who was the bobsledder in the lake placid us olympic team said, well, we only took her down the easy part at the end. eleanor flew in an airplane, you know from albany to new york city two years after lindbergh. she was doing a lot of things. this was also the time i should mention just for the background
that fdr as governor presided over the opening of the empire state building with al smith. who was the general manager that building in 1931. he presided over the opening of the george washington bridge in this i think it was that year. he presided over the opening of the teddy roosevelt memorial at the museum of natural history. he loved that event and then the lake placid olympics. and just a few other things to close up. i always loved the line this was later when she was in the white house eleanor roosevelt. franklin would joke. dear lord, please make eleanor a little tired. because as doris kearns goodwin said eleanor knew what should be done and franklin knew what could be done. he always listened to her. he always respected her opinion. she always nagged him and pushed
him and pushed him. and quite often he would think a few days later. she was right. she was right about the japanese internment camp. she did so many things and you know, as i said having that picture with my father, it's in my book a special thing. and i was just overwhelmed. i think there are many people who have met her. friends of mine who told me stories that i put one person i put in the book. to think that a woman lived from the time of grover cleveland to martin luther king. and martin luther king would say the impact of her personality and it's unwavering dedication to high principle and purpose cannot be contained in a single day or era. her life was one of the bright interludes in the troubled history of mankind. and i think when you put these two people together, it's quite remarkable that even though they had their falling out which i didn't get into, you know, and they didn't stay romantically involved that they had a partnership because they had a
commitment she had the passion he had the sense of how to be successful and confident and lead the country through a very difficult time and again it all started in albany. so thank you very much. any questions you don't i've got oh if you come to microphone, i'll have one if anyone else wants to come. of what kind of opposition did he face? i know in during his presidential years. he never carried duchess county. what was how was opposition to these programs which we know during the 1930s ultimately had a great deal even from southern democrats. how did he handle that here in the state of new york? and good question the first year they were kind of like, okay. this guy is in a wheelchair and we don't know too much about him. he's sort of put in there with the help of al smith and so forth. and the first test the
republicans are going to test him and that's why i said they took him to court and they say you're not going to control the budget. we've been doing that. we've been running the legislature for a long time. well, he stood up and made it very clear that he was going to fight back and i mentioned you know, he used the radio. he i just think you know, the the charm of the man going around the state and meeting with people they really convinced a lot of people and you know, you know how important media is in our day but back then you know, that radio was so important and he could communicate with people so well, so he he had his operatives in the democratic party constantly thinking he set up a media operation to go into upstate new york to send out press releases constantly to talk about what they were doing. they had a a plan, you know and even you know he kind of cornered them on prohibition because when he ran against i think it was tuttle the second time he was wavering.
you know, he knew it's you see a lot of this today. it was like, okay the parties really again the republicans against prohibition, but i know the people a lot of people in new york, aren't so he kind of wavered and fdr kind of said, well, we should just leave it to the states and he kind of put this guy, you know, he made it clear that he was not being firm in his statements about where he stood on it. so he was he was a master politician and he had lewis how to help him along. i have a question about his relationship with tammany hall specifically when he was governor of new york. there was a mayor i guess a good part of the population in new york was actually in the city of new york and there was this mayor walker and there was a investigation of him and tammany hall, i guess was called the seabury commission. yeah, can you elaborate on that?
and did they were they helpful tammany hall in his progressive agenda or where they trying to block his agenda when he was governor? great question. i did i didn't have enough time really to go into seabury, but yes, it's in my book. so he's dominated for president. i didn't mention this but who was the chief opponent to win the democratic nomination in 1932? who won the roosevelt had to win two thirds of the vote to get the nomination he had gotten more than 50% but he hadn't gotten all the way there. al smith one, pennsylvania and massachusetts and and then roosevelt ended up getting john nance garner to be as vice president and that got texas in california but to your point after he gets to nomination. imagine this in august of that year.
the mayor jimmy walker who was you know accused of corruption of getting kickbacks of using his office for corruption. only way he can be taken out judge seabury was appointed to investigate him and he came up with some pretty -- recommendations that yes, there were some corruption there. so the governor if i got this right the governor had the power to get rid of the mayor of new york. that's what it was. so roosevelt had a terrible predicament, of course, he was very confident, but it was a predicament. he's running for president and he's going to if he sides with walker and says, no you're you know, you stay then he's going to be accused to cross the country of being tammany hall. okay part of that. if he doesn't he looks like a reformer, well he got. i don't want to say he got lucky but he had he had him up to albany and he questioned him in public. and that went on and it was pretty difficult walker didn't have the answers. and al smith who was one of walker's supporters went to him around just before labor day and said you're not going to make it
so walker resigned. and that was how that happened that you know, they got a out of that, but i will say that you know, it was always a foot dance for roosevelt. he was known as being a reformer progressive democrat when he was elected into the state legislature. they tammany hall also, of course that teddy was a republican they don't like him. so they're thinking oh is this roosevelt going to be like that one? so, but they also knew that he was he was after they saw him get elected. they knew this guy was really charming and franklin had sort of, you know made peace with them. they made peace with each other but he was not exact he was able to win because he like them all the way. hello. thank you for your talk. i'm i found it really fascinating about the trajectory that you explained about. fdr and his goal for national old age pension my research is
about this topic and i recently learned that in 1931. only five states actually had an old age pension plan while all of them did have old age assistance, but the funds were sometimes unconstitutional and never actually in effect. i'm curious if you can talk a little bit more about the insight that you have from your research here or in the national archives. i mean in the state archives of new york. or any of the research you've done so far and fdr about what concerned him the most about creating a national old age pension plan. what worried him about the constitutionality or what he thought would be the most friction in washington well having lobbied for older people all my most of my life. both parties. it was a popular thing to do, you know, so everybody's parents if they're not able to take care of themselves to to have them have their own money obviously
was a popular thing. there was this did in your research and certainly what i found there was the townsend movement you might have heard about in california where so the towns and movement had created a lot of pressure to create an old age pension system in the states and had done it. and i think in new york, they knew that that pressure was here. there was this committee i mentioned that when they had the hearings they organized people to sign petitions and to pressure so they were getting public pressure. i mean roosevelt had the desire to do it from what you heard the quote when he was campaigning about how depressing it was to go and see the the poor houses. so he had the desire, but he was also being pushed. okay? and in washington in you know for old for social security. there was a big fear. that they would be pushed further to the left. that there was there was this movement that if the and you
know, there were huey long and i forgot a couple other progressives were pushing so hard that francis perkins was like, you know, we need to come to come let's get a bill. let's get a compromise and let's pass it because otherwise, you know, they're going to take us further out than we want to go. so i guess the point would be that there there was a combination of his desire but also of the political pressure that makes it almost impossible to do it when you are confronted with older people who literally have nothing and are going to the poor house. that was a moral issue to him. we can talk more about that. hi you made reference to robert moses and eleanor and franklin not wanting him to be part of franklin's administration. obviously, we know that he later on comes back with the vengeance in what ways did he interact with roosevelt when roosevelt was governor if if at all he kept him as the head of the
state parks. council or agency, so that he did but the reason why he didn't want them. was that he had a falling out with him because franklin had wanted to appoint lewis how to the taconic state park commission or something and moses wouldn't go along with it and they remembered so he felt he would not be you know, he wanted he wanted his own people. he wanted people around him. who were his aides who would not only be policy aids, but the people he put around him were people who physically also could help him, you know like his you
know, the guys whonow, it's my o introduce catherine smith. catherine smith is a journalist in history writer with a long-time interest in fdr and his times. she is the biographer of marguerite alice lahand who was fdr's private secretary counselor confidant from 1921 to 1941 and who served as his de facto white house chief of staff. in addition to her book the gatekeeper katherine co-authors a missile hand mystery series with kelly durham sheo
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