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The FDR Presidential Library and Museum presented a well-attended author talk and book signing with Martin Professor of Constitutional Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School JAMES F. SIMON who spoke about his most recent book FDR AND CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES: THE PRESIDENT, THE SUPREME COURT, AND THE EPIC BATTLE OVER THE NEW DEAL.

Prof. Simon talked about researching and writing this book about the most significant struggle between the executive and the judiciary branches of the federal government in the twentieth century — one with critical implications for today’s battle over President Obama’s health care law.The program was held in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center and 60 people attended including a local AP United States Government class. Following the presentation, Professor Simon signed copies of his book.

This April, the Roosevelt Library will host two of the eight “Fireplace Lounge Chats” discussions on civility and democracy in America being held throughout the mid-Hudson region this spring. These expert-led discussions feature representatives from local colleges, area high schools, county legislatures, the Roosevelt Library and SUNY Orange and are made possible by support from a New York Council for the Humanities grant. This is the first of two programs to be held at the Roosevelt Library will focus on civil rights and will take place on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. The second event, on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, will center on FDR’s Presidency.

Both programs begin at 7:00 p.m in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. The issue examined across all eight programs is the question of civility in American political discourse and how it relates to the topic of the evening. For more information on the “Fireplace Lounge Chats” programs, contact Paul Basinski, chair of the SUNY Orange Global Studies Department, at (845) 341-4828 or click here.

May 24, 1957

“HOUSTON—I am in Texas for two lectures on behalf of Bonds for Israel and arrived in Houston when a court hearing was being held on the speed for compliance with the Supreme Court’s order on desegregation of schools.

This led the press to ask me a number of questions which, as a guest, I felt it was unfortunate for me to have to answer, particularly since I feel that my attitude and beliefs on this question have been so well known.

I was glad, however, to be able to express my strong feelings against violence in this issue anywhere in our country. And so I regret the decision made in Texas against the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for it seems to take away the right to use legal action to enforce the desegregation decision and, in a way, makes it more difficult to prevent violence.

I hope that I am wrong and that we will see a continuation of the staunchness shown by the citizens in Montgomery, Ala., who under the leadership of the Rev. Martin Luther King have adhered to non-violence.

But human beings have a breaking point if denied an outlet for their emotions and convictions. Then violence may seem to be the only answer, and that hurts us, both at home and abroad…”

May 20, 1954

“NEW YORK, Wednesday—…While I was on the Tex and Jinx show I was given the news of the unanimous Supreme Court decision that wiped out segregation in the schools. I am delighted this was a unanimous decision because I think it will be difficult for the states with segregated school systems to hold out against such a ruling.

If it were not for the fact that segregation in itself means inequality, the old rule of giving equal facilities might have gone on satisfying our sense of justice for a long time. It is very difficult, however, to ensure real equality under a segregated system, and the mere fact that you cannot move freely anywhere in your country and be as acceptable everywhere as your neighbor creates an inequality.

Southerners always bring up the question of marriage between the races and I realize that that is the question of real concern to people. But it seems to me a very personal question which must be settled by family environment and by the development of the cultural and social patterns within a country. One can no longer lay down rules as to what individuals will do in any area of their lives in a world that is changing as fast as ours is changing today.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

February 9, 1948

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—I went to speak for one of the Y.M.C.A. groups at New York University Medical College late Friday afternoon, and I was interested to see that a good cross section of our New York City population was represented in the audience. There were Protestants, Catholics and Jews, as well as boys of many racial strains, including Negroes. It was easy to talk to them about human rights and the United Nations, for many of them knew, either from personal experience or through affiliations with different people, what the abrogation of human rights means to any group of people.

In this connection I would like to say a word about the reception accorded by a group of Southern Democratic Senators and Representatives to the President’s message sent with the report of his Committee on Civil Liberties. Anyone who has worked in the international field knows well that our failure in race relations in this country, and our open discrimination against various groups, injures our leadership in the world. It is the one point which can be attacked and to which the representatives of the United States have no answer.

I wish these Southern gentlemen had a little more faith in the white race and believed that we were capable of associating with and doing justice to another race without of necessity being swallowed up by that race. It seems to me that this hue and cry on the subject of segregation is nothing but an expression of fear. This fear is more understandable in the South, where in certain areas a larger section of the population is colored. Yet if proper conditions existed and there was equal opportunity for education, for economic security and for decent living, there need be no fear. It is because we do not grant civil and economic rights on an equal basis that there is any real reason for fear.

There can be no real democracy where 15,000,000 people feel that they are discriminated against and cannot live on equal terms with their neighbors. Neither will there be real unity in this country until we conquer our prejudices. All of us have them in one form or another, but the time has come when the fight must be made by each one of us to live at home in a way which will make it possible to live peacefully in the world as a whole…”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

December 2, 1957

“NEW YORK—People all over the world have been asked to sign a Declaration of Conscience to observe a day of protest against South Africa’s apartheid policy. An international committee, composed of more than 150 world leaders from more than 43 nations, has designated Human Rights Day, December 10, as this worldwide day of protest. Particularly in India and in Africa, as well as in many other countries of the world, there will be demonstrations protesting the policy which is felt to be harmful to human relations the world over. Therefore it cannot be the domestic concern of one nation only, but of all nations…

…When I was asked to sign this Declaration of Conscience, I at first hesitated. I felt that a country which needed to look at its own situation and acknowledge the basic rights of all its own citizens and work for the necessary changes which would bring every citizen in the U.S. the opportunity for complete development of his powers, might better perhaps first sign a Declaration of Conscience covering his own country. I signed, however, because the situation here, bad as it is, is not quite the same as the situation in South Africa. The Negroes of our South have good leaders and though their education has been insufficient and their opportunities for advancement certainly not equal, still they have begun their upward climb. They are able to do much for themselves, and on the whole in this country there is a vast majority of people who are ready and willing to help them achieve equality of opportunity in every area of our complicated civilization.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

May 20, 1954

“NEW YORK, Wednesday—…While I was on the Tex and Jinx show I was given the news of the unanimous Supreme Court decision that wiped out segregation in the schools. I am delighted this was a unanimous decision because I think it will be difficult for the states with segregated school systems to hold out against such a ruling.

If it were not for the fact that segregation in itself means inequality, the old rule of giving equal facilities might have gone on satisfying our sense of justice for a long time. It is very difficult, however, to ensure real equality under a segregated system, and the mere fact that you cannot move freely anywhere in your country and be as acceptable everywhere as your neighbor creates an inequality.

Southerners always bring up the question of marriage between the races and I realize that that is the question of real concern to people. But it seems to me a very personal question which must be settled by family environment and by the development of the cultural and social patterns within a country. One can no longer lay down rules as to what individuals will do in any area of their lives in a world that is changing as fast as ours is changing today.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

April 11, 1960

“NEW YORK—It is a good thing that the Senate has finally passed the civil rights bill after an eight-week fight, with 42 Democrats and 29 Republicans in favor. This is only the second civil rights legislation to pass the Senate since the Reconstruction Era. The first civil rights act of 1957 was also a voting rights measure. Already those who want a really fair bill giving the Negroes their full rights are denouncing this bill, and I am quite sure that it will continue to be denounced. But I hope that it is at least a step in the right direction.

All of us in the Democratic party, I think, owe Senator Johnson a vote of thanks. He has risked repercussions among his Southern colleagues and among his own constituents. He has made it possible for the Democrats to claim equal, if not more, responsibility for the passage of the bill which of course should never have had to be passed—for the right to vote should be something which every citizen of this country enjoys without any question. Since it was necessary to pass the bill, however, we are fortunate to have had a parliamentary leader with the skill of Senator Johnson.

My one fear is of intimidation which I feel sure will be tried to prevent Negro citizens in the South from registering and voting. I hope the Attorney General can find ways of protecting the registration and of preventing retaliation when the Negro citizens of the South exercise their constitutional right.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

March 26, 1960

“HYDE PARK—We have all been very much upset by the situation in South Africa. But equally upsetting has been the news from Alabama, where nine college students were 01expelled from school for their sit-down strike. A visitor came to tell me that when a sympathy strike was attempted on behalf of these students, the police set up gun posts around the college campus, tapped the telephone lines to the church where meetings were being held, and altogether created an atmosphere so much like South Africa that it is not comfortable for an American citizen to think about.

Fortunately, students in colleges in the North have realized that the students in the South will need help, so within hours $1,000 was expedited from campuses in the North to the beleaguered students in Alabama. I think we should organize to support these students in any way it is possible to do so.

As I have said before, I do not think boycotting lunch counters that are segregated in the North has much value except in letting off our own steam. But I do think that refusing to buy South African goods—such as lobster tails, diamonds, caracul coats, etc., none of which we buy every day—and at the same time refusing to buy anything at all from chain stores that have segregation of any kind in our South will have a very salutary effect.

It is curious that the United States and South Africa have much the same problem. However, the degree, thank heavens, is different. But we must move forward here at home or we cannot protest with sincerity what goes on abroad.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

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