This past week I had the great honor of being the guest speaker at the birthday commemoration for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt held in the Rose Garden at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. The following are my remarks which highlight how very relevant President Roosevelt remains today:
Thank you for inviting me to make remarks today on the 131st birthday of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One of my very favorite things about my new district, the newly designed 106th Assembly district, is that it includes this very first American Presidential Library, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, and the birthplace and home of Franklin Roosevelt.
I grew up hearing stories from my parents of gathering around the radio to listen to FDR’s reassuring fireside chats. And my longtime admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt grew from a childhood visit with the beloved “first lady of the world” when she came to tea with my Brownie Scout Troop. Turned out Eleanor Roosevelt was godmother to one of my fellow troop members.
What I find especially remarkable about the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt — and Eleanor, as well — is how relevant his words, his policies and his programs remain today four score years later.
Last week in a conversation with Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and some colleagues over the challenges facing our state parks, we all cited Roosevelt’s pioneering Civilian Conservation Corps as a visionary way to put people to work while also protecting our environment and natural treasures. His advocacy on behalf of environmental conservation and the rich farmland here in his beloved Hudson Valley is captured in this prescient and still timely quote, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
And just yesterday in the State Capitol — March of Dimes, which FDR founded 75 years ago on January 3, 1938 — as a response to the US epidemic of polio, had a big display in the Legislative Office Building, with a picture of the Roosevelts and recognition of the anniversary.
And rarely does a month go by when there isn’t some article in the papers discussing architecture, a museum or gallery show, newly restored murals, music or plays that have some link to the far-reaching WPA Federal Arts Project.
How fortunate are we here in the Hudson Valley, in New York State and in the United States to have that extraordinary Roosevelt legacy to continue to benefit from and to learn from. I believe President Roosevelt understood his role, as well as our role in that continuum when he said in a 1936 radio address:
“I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making.“