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Both the FDR Presidential Library and the Home of FDR National Historic Site hosted more than 3000 visitors over Memorial Day Weekend at a series of public programs and events. The weekend kicked off with a full audience at the Library’s annual USO Show on Friday night. Attendees were treated to an evening of entertainment including comedy, newsreels, and acrobatics, and ending in a half-hour set of big band music.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Library presented a weekend of historic military displays in the Henry A. Wallace Center. Re-enactors in battle dress shared their love of history with visitors. Collections of military uniforms, prop weapons, and insignia from 1917 to the present day were also displayed. Four period military vehicles in the Library parking lot made up one of the more popular exhibits. On Monday, Memorial Day, the Home of FDR National Historic Site hosted a graveside memorial service and Commander Rob Thompson of the USS ROOSEVELT (DDG 80), a guided missile destroyer, made remarks. Commander Thompson and 25 members of his crew were visiting Hyde Park on May 28 as part of Dutchess County Fleet Week 2012.
In conjunction with the opening of a special exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York City (opening June 7) called “Churchill: the Power of Words,” the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute will host a one-day symposium on June 9, 2012 that will examine the wartime relationship of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the onset of the “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States, and the legacy of the two men for both liberal and conservative politics in the United States and United Kingdom. The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home, Hyde Park, New York.
The symposium is being organized in collaboration with the Churchill Archives Centre (Cambridge, England), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Morgan Library and Marist College. “The Churchill-Roosevelt Legacy” symposium will consist of two afternoon panel discussions that includes such notable scholars as David Reynolds, author of “In Command of History, Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War”; Andrew Roberts, author of “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West”; Richard Aldous, author of “Reagan and Thatcher: A Difficult Relationship”; and Warren Kimball, author “Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War.” This is a free public event.
Golden Gate Bridge Opens
This Sunday, May 27th, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Considered a marvel of both scale and design, the Golden Gate held the distinction of being the world’s longest suspension bridge up until the 1960s.
The 1937 opening festivities lasted for one week. On the first day only pedestrian traffic was allowed to cross, and on the second day, May 28th, President Roosevelt ceremonially opened the bridge to vehicular traffic. He did this all the way from the Oval Office in Washington, pushing a golden telegraph button to signal the start of a large formal procession.
Below is the White House Stenographer’s Diary entry for May 27th, 1937, recording FDR’s Golden Gate telegraph appointment. The President telegraphed at three o’clock Eastern Standard Time so the California procession could begin promptly at noon.
1934 Hawaiian Visit
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Hawaiian Islands, located at the northernmost part of Polynesia, were annexed by the United States in 1898, and in 1959 became the nation’s 50th state. By the time of Roosevelt’s presidency Hawaii was characterized by an incredible diversity of cultural ancestry, including Native Hawaiian, pan-Asian and North American. To this day, the state remains one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world.
In July of 1934 FDR became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Territory of Hawaii. He traversed the Pacific aboard the USS Houston, debarked at both the ports of Hilo and Honolulu, and stayed on the Islands for several days to tour both cultural landmarks and military areas. The people of Hawaii made every attempt to welcome the President and share with him the best of Hawaiian culture, both ancient and modern.
When FDR arrived at Honolulu he was greeted by an estimated 60,000 people, including a flotilla of traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes. He was adorned with customary flower leis, was an honored guest at a traditional luau feast complete with a kalua pig cooked in a traditional imu (underground oven), and the legendary surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, gave lessons to FDR’s sons. Roosevelt’s Hawaiian hosts also showed him the most modern of their New Deal inspired building developments and educational facilities.
In his departing remarks to the people of Hawaii on July 28th, the President thanked them and wished to all, “Aloha from the bottom of my heart.” FDR’s next and final visit to Hawaii would take place ten years later, in 1944, near the end of World War II. By that time the small yet influential Pacific Island chain had taken on a more infamous role in world history.
The National Archives has shared a new “set” on the Flickr photosharing website that contains photos and documents relating to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. See the images.
I joined the staff of the Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum as the Education Specialist in April 2001. At the time I was still under contract as an Instructor of Government and American History with Dutchess Community College. As soon as the semester ended in the early part of May, I began my full-time Education Specialist responsibilities and was shocked to find myself starting my new position just at the very peak of the school fieldtrip season!
With the help of two seasoned volunteers, Joe Gleeson and Bob Richardson, and with the support and guidance of Lynn Bassanese, who had been running the education department until I was fully on board, I assumed the burden of teaching the students of today about the world of the Roosevelts’ in the 1930s and 40s.
My biggest concern was, how was I going to make a president who lived in a time before television, computers, and the widespread use of air conditioning, pertinent to the net-connected (addicted?) young learners of the 21 first century? Sadly, it was not long before events would answer the question for me.
The surprise attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th 2001 stood in direct parallel to the surprise attack on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Concerns over WMD’s -weapons of mass destruction- had direct tiebacks to the Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb. In November 2008, the United States broke a significant racial barrier and elected our nations’ first African American President, this just sixty-seven years after the racially tainted internment of Japanese Americans. As economic conditions went from bad to worse I was probably one of the only people in America who welcomed the “Great Recession” for its wealth of teachable moments which make the teaching of the Great Depression so much easier.
To my astonishment, my biggest concern turned out to be my biggest lesson, and it’s the lesson that my staff and I try to instill in the more than 15,000 students who visit our site each year: that so many of the issues and concerns faced in the Roosevelt era are still with us today. And that as we press to move forward, we must pause to look back at the lives and legacies of an extraordinary President and First Lady, who left us with so many rich and valuable lessons from which we all can learn.
The first presidential proclamation honoring Mother’s Day was issued by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Each successive year, presidents followed Wilson’s example and issued a Mother’s Day proclamation. But in 1935, Franklin Roosevelt broke with tradition. He believed that Mother’s Day was so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that an annual presidential proclamation was an unnecessary exercise. So President Roosevelt ignored a Senate resolution calling for a proclamation and instead issued a statement from the White House urging that tributes to American mothers “come simply and spontaneously from our hearts.”
This document is a draft of the Statement by the President issued from the White House on May 7, 1935. The handwritten changes in blue ink are in FDR’s handwriting.
New Photo Exhibit is Open!
From May 1, 2012 to late summer 2013 — while the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum’s permanent exhibit galleries are closed for the final stage of a $35 million renovation — the Roosevelt Library is presenting the largest photography exhibition ever assembled on the lives and public careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. “THE ROOSEVELTS: PUBLIC FIGURES, PRIVATE LIVES,” is a new and very different kind of exhibit that takes visitors on an immersive photographic and film journey through the lives and times of the Roosevelts. The exhibition features nearly one thousand images that vividly depict both their public and private lives.
Be sure to also check out the fantastic piece by Ed Rothstein in the New York Times about the Library’s new photo exhibit!
Memorial Day celebrations in the United States began after the Civil War to commemorate the lives of those lost during the war. During FDR’s presidency, Decoration Day honored the lives of all Americans who had died in military service for the United States. The name of the holiday was officially changed to Memorial Day in 1967 and starting in 1971 the date was moved from May 30th to the last Monday in May.
In 1936, FDR received the following message from King Leopold III of Belgium in observance of Decoration Day.
This document and others from the collections of the FDR Library can be found on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day website.