Posts Tagged ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt’


En las últimas semanas he estado disfrutando del blog Presidential de la periodista del Washington Post Lilliam Cunningham. Dos capítulos son especialmente dignos de mención.  El primero de ellos es  dedicado a la figura de Franklin D. Roossevelt. FDR es, sin lugar a dudas, uno de los más importantes presidentes en la historia de Estados Unidos. Su liderato durante la gran depresión y la segunda guerra mundial marcó a la nación estadounidense. Cunningham aborda la figura de FDR desde la perspectiva de la primera dama, Eleonor Roosevelt. El resultado es un excelente  retrato de una mujer realmente excepcional y de su relación con FDR.

El segundo capítulo enfoca el presidente más controversial de la historia estadounidense: Richard M. Nixon. Quien debiera ser recordado por sus grandes logros diplomáticos,   es perseguido  por su papel en el escándalo de Watergate y su renuncia a la presidencia. Para analizar a Nixon, Cunningham recurre a un ícono del periodismo estadounidense, Bob Woodward. Uno de los principales actores del drama que llevó a Nixon fuera de la Casa Blanca, Woodward analiza de forma magistral el camino de odio y desconfianza que llevó a Nixon a su ruina.

Aquellos interesados en la historia política estadounidense encontrarán en este blog una fuente valiosa y de gran calidad.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 20 de septiembre de 2016

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The Presidential Juggler: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rhetorical Flexibility, and Autofabrication

“You know I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does. I may have one policy for Europe and one diametrically opposite for North and South America. I may be entirely inconsistent, and furthermore I am perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths if it will help win the war.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945, US president 1933-1945) made the above comment to one of his cabinet members on May 15, 1942. Especially the first sentence has often been quoted since, almost to the point of becoming one of the best-known FDR epigrams along with “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”, and “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny”. Although FDR said this in a private setting, it has by now – 70 years after his death – become an oft-quoted maxim, e.g. in Warren Kimball’s monograph The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman (1991). Indeed, FDR’s self-declared deviousness at juggling the images and impressions he projected has itself become a stock element of his long-standing public image.  That this is largely remembered as a positive attribute is exemplified in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), in which FDR (Bill Murray) is portrayed as a sly genius, covertly playing the media and everybody else.

“I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does,” reminds of the liar paradox (“This sentence is false.”) because Roosevelt is actually compellingly honest about his own dissimulation. “You know” in the full quotation enhances this effect, because it makes the addressee complicit in the performance of enchanting deception.

The New York Times reports Franklin D. Roosevelt's death (New York Times, 13 April 1945)

One of FDR’s key skills was his ability to exude a sense of authenticity. This authenticity was in the first place a rhetorical performance, but for instance his Fireside Chats continue to be experienced as frank and intimate. In the days after they were broadcast the White House would receive unprecedented deluges of letters from Americans who felt personally compelled to continue the conversation with the President.  However, within the display of rhetorical skill and seeming authenticity and frankness, there is a strong message in the “juggler” quote: Roosevelt is “perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths” about his role in World War II. This is something he could not have said a year earlier, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States were not officially engaged yet, and the public opinion still largely opposed intervention in the war overseas. Because it was well-known that the president, unlike most Americans, was keen to intervene in the European war to help Great Britain resist Nazi-Germany, saying that he would lie about the war would have been political suicide.

Admitting to deviousness would have damaged him, especially as a president who had just, unprecedentedly, been re-elected for a third term, a move that was frowned upon widely, by Americans traditionally wary of the corrupting effects of power. But in 1942, when there was a clear and external opponent to deceive, FDR could make such a statement and come across as transparent on the one hand, and immeasurably powerful on the other (immeasurable, because “I never let my right hand know what my left hand does”). This literal impossibility to measure his power expanded its magnitude to the immeasurably vast. Around the same time Roosevelt made the juggler remark, his administration, under Roosevelt’s responsibility and at his discretion, was incarcerating over 120,000 Japanese Americans, without any indication of potential disloyalty to the US.

This double act is characteristic for FDR – he on the one hand publicly and with great success, even into the future, positioned himself as a fascinating and a sympathetic icon, and at the same time decisively exerted the executive power vested in the president. Indeed, through saying he is a juggler (i.e. happy to beguile), he presented himself as frank and charming. He explicitly covered his actions as commander in chief (which in the case of the Japanese internment would later be qualified as war crimes) by a verbal self-presentation as informal and frank. The similarity with his first name is coincidental, although it is a coincidence he was apt to use to his advantage.

I call this double act – obscuring the less comfortable elements of wielding power through the self-presentation as an attractive public icon – autofabrication. Autofabrication is a coinage to complement Stephen Greenblatt’s celebrated term self-fashioning. In Renaissance Self-fashioning Greenblatt discusses the production of selves of exemplary renaissance authors from More to Shakespeare, arguing that they are both products of a particular culture with particular shaping demands on the individual, and also individuals reflecting on those cultural codes through their writing. Greenblatt argues that during and since the sixteenth century ideas of the self as mobile, and the belief that selves can be fashioned by internal and external factors, have acquired immense momentum in the western world. The success of the term, also for fruitful analysis of individuals who lived long after the 16th century, suggests he is right.

However, to understand larger-than-life political leaders such as Roosevelt it is not enough to regard them as products of a culture who simultaneously contribute to the development of their culture. Especially in a democratic setting, a leader like FDR is also a public icon, presumably representing the majority of the electorate – however impossible it is for one individual to actually represent millions of people. At the same time he was commander in chief, the formal embodiment of executive power. Especially in the context of war, this executive power is a life-and-death matter, a harsh fact that often needs to be obscured, for a democratic leader to survive politically. This conscious production of a positive public image, coupled with the necessary elision of visible power-wielding are the constitutive elements of autofabrication, complementary in the case of political leaders to self-fashioning.

Presenting oneself as an attractive icon for a majority of the electorate is a tour-de-force in itself. One of the key things Roosevelt did to pull this off, was to position himself as an extremely malleable vessel, which could easily be adopted as part of a range of narratives. Many of his best remembered speeches have an attractive emptiness. They are rhetorically strong, and easy to identify with, but at the same time non-committal: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny”, and even the privately uttered “I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does”, all have the quality of a soundbite. The latter only became well-known later, but all three are equally easy to incorporate in basic narratives of the political right wing as well as the left. And FDR treated both his political “right hand” and his “left hand” as metaphorical members of his iconic body, as well as like opponents.

And, however controversial FDR was and remains, both sides of the political spectrum continued this habit of adopting and adapting FDR long after his death. Reagan famously claimed to have voted for Roosevelt each time he ran, suggesting he lost touch with the Democratic Party only later (“I didn’t desert my party. It deserted me.” – quoted in William Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR, 212). Thus, the public image FDR laid the foundations of, at once obscured his most assertive use of executive power and made him, like a real juggler, seem so flexible and transparent that he can still be called upon to perform in almost any context or narrative. That, seventy years beyond the man’s death, the FDR icon remains so nimble, is a testament both to his rhetorical artfulness and the conceptual flexibility of his autofabrication.

Sara Polak (Leiden University, the Netherlands) is currently completing her doctoral dissertation on Franklin D. Roosevelt as a Cultural Icon in American Memory. She is interested in how cultural construction (of history, memory, disability, celebrity, etc.) is shaped by and shapes individual and collective identities and ideologies. She blogs about her PhD project and adjacent topics at http://www.sarapolak.nl.

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 The American Internment Camp You Never Heard of

by Jan Jarboe Russell

HNN January 20, 2015


The general history of America’s internment of its own citizens during World War II has long been focused on the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese, 62 percent of them American-born, who were forcibly evacuated from the Pacific coast after the bombings during World War II.

But what I learned during my five years of research for the book, The Train To Crystal City, is that that Executive Order 9066, which ordered the internment of Japanese, also allowed the Roosevelt administration to intern German and Italian immigrants and their American-born children.

About 6,000 Japanese, German, and Italians and their children were housed in a secret internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas, about 35 miles from the Mexican border.

The history of the camp in Crystal City exposes a corner of American history that few knew existed. The camp opened in 1942 with the official purpose to reunite immigrant fathers who’d been arrested by the FBI as “enemy aliens” with their wives and children. It became the only interment camp in the U.S. that held entire families and multiple nationalities.

Earl Harrison, Roosevelt’s new commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, visited the small town of Crystal City, Texas on November 6, 1942, arriving by train from his home in Philadelphia. He walked around a 240-acre site that was previously used as a migrant worker camp for Mexican laborers. From Harrison’s point of view, the isolated location of the camp, far from areas considered vital to the war effort, was positive. It was as close to Siberia as we had in America – which made it an unlikely target for sabotage and protected its secrecy.

Week after week, month after month, from 1942 to 1948, trains with window shards pulled shut, carried civilians from all over the world across miles of flat, empty plains to the small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. Roosevelt not only arrested German, Japanese and Italians on American soil, but orchestrated the removal of 4,058 Germans, 2,264 Japanese and 288 Italians from thirteen Latin American countries – and locked many of them up in Crystal City.

A little known fact, documented by the historian Max Paul Friedman in his book, Nazis and Good Neighbors, is that 81 of those taken from Latin America were Jews who had fled persecution in Nazi Germany. One Jewish family – the Jacobis from Columbia – was interned in Crystal City.

But Crystal City had other secrets. It was the center of Roosevelt’s prisoner exchange program. On September 1, 1939, the day before Germany invaded Poland, Roosevelt created a division within the Department of State – the Special War Problems Division – to create a pool of Japanese and German “enemy aliens” – to be used as hostages in exchange when the U.S. inevitably joined the war.

Over the course of the war, thousands of prisoners in Crystal City, including their American-born children, were exchanged for ostensibly more important Americans – diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, physicians, and missionaries – behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany. The first of four exchanges in Crystal City took place in June 1942 and the second on September 2, 1943. During those exchanges, more than 2,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were traded for Americans caught in Japan. In February 1944, 634 German immigrants and their children, were sent from Crystal City into Germany. On January 2, 1945, 428 more in Crystal City were traded into war.

Daily life in Crystal City was highly regimented. Every morning the American flag was raised in ceremony. As the camp awakened, sleepy night guards relinquished their posts to daytime guards. Censors, who were fluent in German and Japanese, read the incoming mail of internees and cut out portions that related in any way to the war effort. Internees were allowed to write only two letters and one postcard per week. These, too, were censored. Comic books were confiscated for fear that they contained coded messages. Officials kept a dossier on each internee. A small police force patrolled the camp. At the front gate, vehicles of visitors were searched, both upon entry and exit.

The roll calls seemed endless. Three times a day, a whistle blew in the camp, and everyone had to run back to their cottages and huts, form lines, show their faces and stand still for the count. In the presence of armed guards, absences were noted. Prisoners met visitors – friends or relatives – in a hut under the watchful eyes of surveillance officers. As for escape, everyone knew the penalty was death. In fact, for the duration of the camp’s history no one dared risk it.

Despite the harsh conditions, the children in the camp, most of them born in America, were humanely treated. The camp had three schools: the American school, where the teachers were certified by the Texas board of education, the Japanese school, taught by Japanese fathers and mothers, and the German school, taught by Germans. American-born teenagers were often in conflict with their foreign-born parents over issues of loyalty.

One anecdote tells the story. Shortly after the camp was opened, Earl Harrison – the head of the INS – visited the camp. During a tour given by Joseph O’Rourke, the officer in charge, Harrison and O’Rourke encountered a group of children. O’Rourke asked what they were doing. “Playing war,” a young boy said.

“Okay,” said O’Rourke. “But I hope nobody gets killed.” He and Harrison continued their tour.

On the way back, the two men stopped at the same spot and found the children seated on the ground, looking glum.

“What happened to the war?” O’Rourke asked.

“It ended,” they explained. “Nobody wanted to be the enemy. We all wanted to be the Americans.”

The fundamental questions of citizenship – the status of aliens, indeed the definition of who is and who is not an American – are perennial. The travesty in Crystal City was that given the high stakes during World War II and the anti-immigrant sentiment at the time, the cost to civil liberties was high.

© 2015 Jan Jarboe Russell, author of The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World Wa

Jan Jarboe Russell, the author of “The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II,” is a former Nieman Fellow, a contributing editor for Texas Monthly, and has written for the San Antonio Express-News, the New York Times, Slate, and other magazines. She is the author of “Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson” and has also compiled and edited “They Lived to Tell the Tale.” She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, Dr. Lewis F. Russell, Jr. For more information please visit her website, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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Even George Washington couldn’t get along with the Senate
By Jonathan Zimmerman

Los Angeles Time November 8, 2014

'Senators Only'

A sign for a private area for ‘Senators only’ is seen inside the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Will President Obama’s relations with the Senate change, now that Democrats have lost control of it? Probably not. And that’s because he didn’t have much of a relationship with it in the first place.

Neither did most of our previous presidents, even when the Senate was in their own party’s hands. Tension between the chief executive and the upper body of Congress is baked into our national DNA. And elections don’t seem to affect it all that much.
Tension between the chief executive and the upper body of Congress is baked into our national DNA. –

Before the nation’s first president took office, the Senate voted to bestow upon George Washington the title of “His Majesty, the President of the United States of America, and the Protector of the Same.” But Washington’s relationship with the Senate cooled just a few months later, when he visited the body to request its approval of a commission to negotiate land treaties with Native Americans.

Senators asked for time to consider the proposal, but Washington wanted their consent on the spot. He departed in a huff, leaving bad feelings on both sides. “I cannot be mistaken,” one senator wrote in his journal. “The President wishes to tread on the necks of the Senate.”
lRelated Can Obama’s presidency be saved.

The new Constitution gave the Senate power to approve federal appointments, not just treaties. When the Senate rejected his nominee for a naval post in Georgia, Washington personally went to the body to ask why. One senator replied that its deliberations were secret, and they were none of the president’s business anyhow. After that, Washington resolved never to visit the Senate again.

Similar acrimony arose between 19th century presidents and the Senate, even when the president (like our current chief executive) had served in the body himself. After nine-year Senate veteran John Tyler became the country’s first unelected president, replacing the deceased William Henry Harrison, one senator proposed that Tyler be addressed as “The Vice President, on whom, by the death of the late President, the powers and duties of the office of President have devolved.” The Senate went on to reject four of Tyler’s Cabinet nominees and four of his appointments to the Supreme Court.

Nor did it matter that Tyler’s own party, the Whigs, controlled the Senate. Two decades later, as the Civil War raged, not a single member of the GOP-dominated Senate supported Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 reelection bid. Lincoln was locked in a battle over postwar Reconstruction with his fellow Republicans, many of whom believed that his assassination would pave their way to victory. “By the gods,” GOP Sen. Ben Wade told Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, after he assumed the presidency, “there will be no trouble now in running the government!”

But there was, of course, into the next century and beyond. Upon ascending to the White House in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt clashed with his GOP Senate colleagues over his plans for banking regulation, the construction of the Panama Canal and more. Privately, Roosevelt called one Republican senator “a well-meaning, pin-headed, anarchistic crank, of hirsute and slab-sided aspect.” As one of Roosevelt’s friends wrote, the president had “as much respect for the Senate as a dog has for a marriage license.” And the Senate returned the feelings, of course.

Woodrow Wilson got his taste of the Senate’s wrath after World War I, when it rejected his plea to join the League of Nations. “The senators of the United States have no use for their heads,” a bitter Wilson declared, “except to serve as a knot to keep their bodies from unraveling.”

And so it continued, from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tangle with the Senate over his court-packing bill through Richard Nixon’s battle over White House tapes and Bill Clinton’s impeachment. During FDR’s failed bid to add justices to the Supreme Court, one of his Democratic foes in the Senate said the president was his own worst enemy. “Not as long as I am alive,” another Democratic senator quipped.

Unlike FDR, Obama will now have to deal with a GOP-led Senate. But it’s hard to imagine that Obama’s relationship with the body could get any chillier than it was when his party controlled it. Twelve Democratic senators were invited to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day, and exactly one showed up.

From the very start, the Senate has tried to show up the president — and vice versa. And that’s unlikely to change, no matter which party is in charge.

Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of the forthcoming “Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education.

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Rare Footage of FDR at NIH

Rebecca C. Warlow

Circulating Now  September 10, 2014

On October 31, 1940, just days before President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be elected to an unprecedented third term as President of the United States, he traveled to Bethesda to dedicate the National Cancer Institute and the new campus of what was then the National Institute of Health (NIH), before it would eventually become known in plural form—National Institutes of Health—as multiple units were established over subsequent years.

President Roosevelt stands at a podium surrounded by american flags at the top of the steps of a colonial brick building.

That late October afternoon, Roosevelt stood on the steps of the new main NIH building, ready to address a crowd of 3,000 people. Still relevant today, in a variety of contexts, are the subjects he discussed: the need for preparedness in light of war and for research into deadly diseases, recent improvements in public health and health care, and hope that the research conducted at NIH would lead to new cures for and even the prevention of disease.

Today, the National Library of Medicine is making the film of Roosevelt’s speech publicly available for the first time, nearly 74 years after the President made his speech. Sound recordings, transcripts, andphotographs of this event have been available publicly for many years. Our research suggests, however, that this rare film footage has not been seen publicly since its recording and may no longer exist anywhere else.

The live footage of the speech was given to NLM many years ago by the National Archives and Records Administration. The recording does not appear to have been professionally produced, although news organizations such as CBS were present on that day. The camera is unsteady in places, a hand sweeps across the lens, and the filming starts and stops, though it isn’t known whether this is a result of the original filming or of later editing.

While we have long been able to hear Roosevelt’s support for public health and medical research, now we can see him state some of his powerful words from this important speech, and truly appreciate the experience of being in the audience on that historic day. The President’s concluding words capture the weight of the moment: “Today the need for the conservation of health and physical fitness is greater than at any time in the nation’s history. In dedicating this Institute, I dedicate it to the underlying philosophy of public health, to the conservation of life, to the wise use of the vital resources of our nation. I voice for America, and for the stricken world, our hopes, our prayers, our faith, in the power of man’s humanity to man.”

Five years before Roosevelt’s dedication, in 1935, Luke and Helen Wilson had donated land in Bethesda, Maryland, to the government to be used as the new home of the National Institute of Health. At the dedication, President Roosevelt thanked Mrs. Wilson for the gift she and her husband had made to and for the benefit of the nation, “For the spacious grounds on which these buildings stand we are indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Luke I. Wilson, who wrote me in 1935, asking if part of their estate at Bethesda, Maryland, could be used to the benefit of the people of this nation. I would tell her now as she sits beside me that in their compassion for suffering, their hope for human action to alleviate it, she and her husband symbolized the aspirations of millions of Americans for a cause such as this. And we are very grateful.”

The Wilsons’ donated their land shortly before the President signed the Social Security Act in 1935. The Act contained provisions meant to assist in “establishing and maintaining adequate public health services” throughout the country. Roosevelt made certain in his speech to pointedly address those who opposed some of his proposed health care initiatives, stating that “neither the American people nor their government intend to socialize medical practice any more than they plan to socialize industry.”

The possibility of the United States entering the war in Europe was also clearly on the President’s mind. In his speech, he tied together the “strategic importance of health” with the need for the nation to be prepared for war, saying, “The total defense that we have heard so much about of late—that total defense which this nation seeks—involves a great deal more than building airplanes and ships and guns and bombs, for we cannot be a strong nation unless we are a healthy nation, and so we must recruit not only men and materials, but also knowledge and science in the service of national strength.”

Roosavelt, in a pinstripe suit, stands at a podium flanked by columns.

Roosevelt lauded the past work of the National Institute of Health and emphasized the need to be vigilant against illnesses from abroad. “These buildings, which we dedicate, represent new and improved housing for an institution which has a long and distinguished background of accomplishment in this task of research… Now that we are less than a day by plane from the jungle-type yellow fever of South America, less than two days from the sleeping sickness of equatorial Africa, less than three days from cholera and bubonic plague, the ramparts we watch must be civilian in addition to military.”

In his remarks, the President singled out the new National Cancer Institute (NCI) that he was dedicating. He praised the Institute, stating “It is promoting and stimulating cancer research throughout the nation; it is bringing to the people of the nation a message of hope because many forms of the disease are not only curable but even preventable. Beyond this, it is doing research here and in many universities to unravel the mysteries of cancer. We can have faith in the ultimate results of these efforts.”

It is our honor and privilege to make this film footage available now as excitement is building for the upcoming PBS broadcast of the new Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, a landmark project that was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with whom NLM is working on initiatives of common interest.

For their assistance in determining what research suggests to be the uniqueness of this footage, we thank our colleagues in the NLM’s Audiovisual Program and Development Branch of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, the NIH Office of History, and the National Archives and Records Administration. We also thank our colleagues Dr. David Cantor for the extensive historical research he completed on the subject of FDR and the NIH before we initiated our effort to make this film public available, and especially Anatoliy Milihkiker, a contract archives technician in the History of Medicine Division, who recognized the unique content of this film as he undertook a recent survey of the our extensive historical audio-visual collections.

Portrait of Rebecca Warlow.Rebecca C. Warlow is Head of Images and Archives in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

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Unprecedented Film of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Walking Donated to Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Harrisburg, Pa.May 15, 2014   PRNewswire-USNewswire

Never before seen footage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking was unveiled today at the Pennsylvania State Archives. The film was shot in 1937 by Harrisburg native and Major League Baseball pitcher James (Jimmie) DeShong on his 8mm home movie camera.

Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett, along with members of DeShong’s family unveiled the rare film.

Pres. Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down by polio in 1921. In the film, he is walking up a ramp in Washington, D.C.’sGriffith Stadium. Pres. Roosevelt is wearing braces on his legs as he holds an assistant’s arm and grasps a handrail to make it up the steps.

It is one of only two known extended film clips in existence showing Pres. Roosevelt walking. It is so rare, that filmmaker Ken Burns is using it in his upcoming documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”
 which will air on PBS beginningSeptember 14, 2014.

“We were thrilled with the discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking. Any film of him struggling to get from one place to another is extremely rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or confiscated cameras whenever FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from his car to anywhere else,” said Ken Burns. “The President wanted to minimize the public’s knowledge of the devastating effects polio had had on him – he was completely paralyzed from the waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane and braces on both legs. The press in those days complied with his request not to be filmed.”

DeShong however had extraordinary access to the field that day. He was able to get eight seconds of footage of President Roosevelt walking in a public setting.

DeShong’s daughter, Judith Savastio, donated the film, and all of its associated copyrights, to the Pennsylvania State Archives so that the archives can conserve, preserve, interpret and make it accessible to the public. The Pennsylvania State Archives was determined to be the most appropriate institution to receive the film as a donation due to its rare political, sports, and Pennsylvania-related content.

“We are extremely grateful that Mrs. Savastio chose Pennsylvania’s State Archives to care for and preserve this extraordinary film,” said First Lady and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commissioner Susan Corbett. “Her generous donation is allowing the world to see something it has never seen before. This unique look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives us a better understanding of his physical struggles and his courage and strength in leading our country through difficult times despite personal challenges.”

Along with the historic footage of Pres. Roosevelt, several Major League baseball all-stars and executives can easily be identified in the film. They include Joe McCarthyCharlie Gehringer, Spud Chandler, Lou GehrigJimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Hank Greenberg, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain LandisCarl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Red Rolfe,Eddie Collins and Tom Yawkey.

In addition to the Major League Baseball and Pres. Roosevelt footage, the film also contains family and hunting scenes taken throughout Pennsylvania.

The original film was cleaned, preserved and digitized into high definition files by Florentine Films, the production company ofKen Burns.

To view an excerpt of the film including footage of Pres. Roosevelt and American and National League players visit www.phmc.state.pa.us.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Media Contact: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639

Editors Note: The entire statement from Ken Burns is as follows:

“We were thrilled with the discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking. Any film of him struggling to get from one place to another is extremely rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or confiscated cameras whenever FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from his car to anywhere else. The President wanted to minimize the public’s knowledge of the devastating effects polio had had on him – he was completely paralyzed from the waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane and braces on both legs. The press in those days complied with his request not to be filmed.

We thought we had found and used all the rare bits and pieces that existed. But this remarkable 8 seconds provided to us by the Pennsylvania State Archives is one of the very best pieces of film that so clearly shows what a brave struggle it was for FDR to move. The fact that he is on an incline and that it is very windy makes his walking even more arduous. The wind even presses his pants against his withered legs and you can clearly see the braces underneath.

This priceless piece of film replaces a still photograph in a key sequence in Episode Four of our series on the Roosevelts and makes the scene far more moving by allowing the audience to see FDR in action. When the film was discovered, we had already completed our series, but once we saw this terrific find, we asked PBS for permission to do a re-edit on the broadcast master of Episode Four so that we could include it.

This 8 seconds enriches our series and helps deepen the American public’s understanding of the strength and fortitude this badly disabled man brought to the task of seeing our country through two of the worst crises in our history – the Depression and World War II.

Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Pennsylvania State Archives, especially Richard Saylor and Linda Ries, for allowing us the use of this remarkable film footage in our series for PBS – The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

 Ken Burns, Director and Producer

SOURCE Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission


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La Biblioteca y Archivo Presidencial Franklin D. Roosevelt acaba de inaugurar FRANKLIN, su portal de acceso libre a más de 300,000 documentos y fotos. Estoy totalmente seguro de que FRANKLIN, se convertirá en una herramienta muy útil para todos aquellos interesados en  el estudio de uno de los periodos más fascinantes de la historia norteamericana: la Era Roosevelt.


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roosevelt102way_sq-6943e8ab2b83948dfb2f059bd2672e3dc2bd3cbb-s6-c30En 1921, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) contrajo poliomelitis mientras vacacionaba con su familia. Esto limitó seriamente la movilidad, pero no la capacidad política del que considero uno de los tres presidentes más importantes en la historia de los Estados Unidos. A FDR le tocaron vivir los tiempos difíciles de la Gran Depresión y la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Padre el Nuevo Trato y artífice de la victoria estadounidense frente al fascismo, FDR cambió el carácter doméstico y la posición mundial de los Estados Unidos.

Por claras razones políticas, FDR escondió su limitación física, por lo que no debe sorprender que no se dejara ver en silla de ruedas y menos fotografiar. Sólo contamos con una foto tomada en 1941 en la que aparece el presidente en silla de ruedas en compañía de una niña.

Hace pocos días el Dr. Ray Begovich (profesor de periodismo en Franklin College, Indiana) se encontraba investigando en los Archivos Nacionales norteamericanos y para su sorpresa tropezó con un corto video en el que FDR es empujado en su silla de ruedas. El pietaje en cuestión, único en su clase,  fue tomado en el crucero USS Baltimore durante un visita de FDR a la base de Pearl Harbor en julio de 1944.

Aunque el video dura menos de un minuto, es uno de esos detalles curiosos que le pueden alegrar la mañana a un historiador.

Comparto mi alegría con mis lectores.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

Lima, Perú, 15 de julio de 2013

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El acorazado West Virgina arde en Pearl Harbor

Un día como hoy hace setenta años, los japoneses atacaron por sorpresa la base norteamericana de Pearl Harbor en la isla de Oahu en Hawái. El ataque japonés fue la culminación de años de tensión y competencia entre ambos países por la hegemonía asiática.  La invasión japonesa de Manchuria (1931), el militarismo japonés y el  acercamiento del gobierno nipón a la Alemania nazi acabaron de envenenar las relaciones entre los Estados Unidos y Japón. Ante las crecientes tensiones diplomáticas con Japón, en mayo de 1940, el Presidente Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) envío la flota norteamericana del Pacífico a Hawái. En septiembre de 1940, Japón acordó una alianza con las Potencias del Eje, es decir, Alemania e Italia. Los Estados Unidos respondieron restringiendo el comercio con Japón y embargando la venta de gasolina de alto octanaje para aviones. Cada vez era más claro y peligroso el distanciamiento entre ambas potencias. Aprovechando el avance arrollador de las tropas alemanas en Europa, Japón ocupó la Indochina Francesa en julio de 1941, y en respuesta Roosevelt congeló los bienes económicos japoneses en los Estados Unidos además de cortar el suministro de combustible al Imperio Japonés. El embargo petrolero tenía repercusiones muy serias para los japoneses, pues el 80% de su combustible procedía de los Estados Unidos.

Vista de Pearl Harbor desde un avión aponés

Para finales de 1941, una confrontación nipona-norteamericana parecía cuestión de tiempo. La inteligencia militar estadounidense sospechaba que los japoneses atacarían en algún punto del océano Pacífico, pero no sabían dónde.  Para noviembre todas las fuerzas militares norteamericanas estaban en alerta, pero ello no pudo evitar que temprano en la mañana del domingo 7 de diciembre de 1941 aviones japoneses bombardearan la base naval de Pearl Harbor. Los aviones nipones habían despegado de un grupo de portaviones japoneses que había navegado miles de millas sin ser detectados. El ataque japonés fue muy efectivo, pues fueron hundidos 14 barcos de guerra (entre ellos ocho acorazados) casi doscientos aviones fueron destruidos y resultaron muertos 2,400 militares y 68 civiles estadounidenses. Afortunadamente para los Estados Unidos, ninguno de sus portaviones se encontraba en Pearl Harbor al momento del ataque, lo que será un factor determinante en el curso de la guerra.

El ataque a Pearl Harbor  estremeció a la nación norteamericana. El 8 de diciembre el Presidente Roosevelt denunció ante el Congreso el ataque japonés  y solicitó una declaración formal de guerra. Con sólo un voto en contra –el de la pacifista Jeannette Rankin– el Congreso aprobó la declaración de guerra contra Japón. En respuesta, Alemania e Italia , aliados de Japón, le declararon la guerra a los Estados Unidos. De esta forma los Estados Unidos entraron oficialmente a la segunda guerra mundial.

A propósito de esta fecha, el blog de los Archivos Nacionales de los Estados Unidos ­­–Prologue: Pieces of History– publica una interesantísima nota sobre el proceso creativo del discurso pronunciado por FDR ante el Congreso el día 8 de diciembre. Según el autor de esta nota, identificado solamente como Jim, FDR recibió la noticia de lo ocurrido en Hawái pasada la 1P.M. (hora de Washington) y dedicó el resto de esa tarde a estudiar, junto con sus asesores, la información disponible sobre el ataque.

El Presidente decidió hablar ante el Congreso al día siguiente para informarle y pedirle una declaración de guerra contra Japón. Esa tarde FDR le dictó a su secretaria, Grace Tully,   un corto mensaje que estaba destinado a convertirse en uno de los más famosos en la historia de los Estados Unidos. Al momento de esta crisis, los escritores de discursos del Presidente (Samuel Rosenman y Robert Sherwood) no se encontraban en Washington por lo que Roosevelt tuvo que dedicar tiempo de uno de los días más agitados de su vida a preparar su mensaje. La Señora Tully mecanografió las palabras de Roosevelt y éste luego hizo importantes cambios al texto original, especialmente en la introducción.  El texto comenzaba: “Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in world history,” lo que Roosevelt cambió por “a date which will live in infamy,” proveyendo la fase más poderosa y recordada de su mensaje.

El texto fue sujeto de otros cambios tanto por FDR como por su amigo Harry Hopkins. Además, al pronunciar sus palabras ante el Congreso Roosevelt incorporó algunos cambios, actualizando la información disponible sobre el alcance de los ataques japoneses contra instalaciones militares norteamericanas en el Pacífico.

Roosevelt se dirige al Congreso

Los Archivos Nacionales poseen copias mecanografiadas de los borradores finales del discurso, pero no el documento que  Roosevelt leyó ante el Congreso y cuyo paradero es un misterio sin resolver.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

Lima, 7 de diciembre de 2011

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