PBS is currently airing a seven part series about Teddy (TR), Franklin (FDR) and Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR, and it’s worth watching. Don’t worry if you missed it because you can watch it online or order the DVDs. It’s funny how in the old black and white photos and gritty newsreels how much the days of TR and FDR were not so different than what we face today.
War and Peace
Both men dealt with war and peace. My parents always said after a downturn in the economy, if we had a war it would help America economically. I never understood that because we’ve been in constant conflict with one country for a long, long time and the economy still isn’t what I’d call okay.
Teddy had his Square Deal and FDR had his New Deal but both did amazing things by using their “executive powers” unlike other politicians before them—or since really. I remember a professor in college who told me if Nixon would have kept his mouth shut about the Watergate tapes and his knowledge of the same, he’d have done just fine because he was one of our most powerful presidents. Don’t know how I feel about that one, but when I was old enough to vote, politicians were not so much protected but instead, had to deal with every skeleton in their closet. And let’s face it folks, everyone’s got skeletons. But I digress.
Both men were raised to believe in helping one’s fellow man and although they came from wealth, they were very approachable—especially Teddy—later Franklin but not so much in his early years.
Regular guys that worked their way up to the top job much like our president only in this day and age, executive power is frowned upon.
The Kennedy Stepping Stones
Although Teddy was a Republican and FDR a Democrat, the family were the Kennedys of their day. Before that Irish political dynasty was born, we had TR and FDR and a few of their relatives threw their hats in here and there as well. Really, the Roosevelts were the stepping stones for the Kennedys.
I know everyone loved JFK and Jackie but since I was only four when he was assassinated, my opinion of them has pretty much been derived from what Vanity Fair magazine writes about them EVERY NOVEMBER. I’ve read some books that note they were “Dr. Feelgood” users—both of them—but was it true or untrue? I’m not judging. But then again, it was still the days of hiding everything from the media so the Kennedys fared well.
Pasts Revealed; Sort Of
Even though this seven-part series never comes out and says Eleanor was fond of her “girlfriends” and I mean in a “partner” sort of way, I believe she was and it’s a shame she had to hide it. They do talk about FDR’s affair and how his one assistant Missy was with him more than Eleanor ever was, especially at Warm Springs. The time the FDRs spend apart was actually more than the time they spent together.
As far as TR goes—and yes he was the first president to be known for his “initials,” I get the feeling he was so upset that he had been a sickly child that proving he was a he-man was one of the most important things to him. Bully and all—in a good way. The series doesn’t talk much about his home life but more of his “bully-ness,” heroics and adventures before and after he was president.
Back to the Books
Watching this series evolve makes me want to reach for my Kindle and download some recommended readings on TR, FDR and Eleanor. Kudos to filmmaker Ken Burns and PBS for The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.