With all the confusion in politics today and the seeming agendas politicians on both sides of the aisle have, I began to ponder on what has made America great in the past.
In our nation’s bygone generations, it has been people, who, despite their human frailties, accomplished amazing outcomes.
I just finished a docuseries called “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” on PBS by Ken Burns. There were two distantly related branches of the Roosevelt families. One originated in Oyster Bay and included Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican. The other was from Hyde Park and included Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat. These two separate branches of the Roosevelt family produced two of the most influential presidents in American history.
Why were they so influential? What did they do that made them loved by most of the American public they served?
Well, I am glad you asked.
I knew from my study of history, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was an outdoorsman. I knew he was the youngest president in American history. I also knew he succeeded in building the Panama Canal.
What I hadn’t realized is that he established the first national parks to preserve the beauty of our country’s varied landscape, thereby making conservation a national priority.
I also didn’t realize he averted a national disaster by effectively dealing with a coal strike in 1902. I was also not aware during one of his last public campaign speeches, he was shot.
The frightful day occurred on Oct. 14, 1912, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The would-be assassin was a former saloon keeper by the name of John Flammang Schrank.
The bullet lodged in the former president’s chest after penetrating his steel glasses case and passing through a thick speech he had put in his breast pocket.
After Schrank was disarmed President Roosevelt did something remarkable. He made sure Schrank was not harmed in any way as he was taken into police custody. He further asked that Schrank not be treated harshly by those in attendance.
He then continued his speech before going to the hospital. How many politicians are you aware of who could forgive their assassin right after being shot and then have the fortitude to insist on finishing speaking before receiving medical care?
Probably none. I can’t think of any.
I knew that President Franklin Roosevelt led our country through most of the brutal and horrific second world war. I knew about the massive work projects his administration sponsored getting America working again after the worst financial crisis our nation has ever encountered.
The Great Depression lasted a decade from 1929 to 1939. Some of those massive work projects were on a scale the world has never seen before, such as the Coulee and Hoover dams to name a couple.
But I didn’t know he established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to ensure the stability of America’s banking system for future generations to come and Social Security. I also didn’t realize he was elected to a record four terms as president (he died from a brain aneurysm in the first year of his fourth term at the age of 64). He was succeeded by Harry Truman, also considered one of the great American presidents.
I knew Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion of women’s rights and civil rights. What I hadn’t realized was that she a was frequent visitor to the field hospitals during the second world war. I learned a lot more about the causes she championed for underprivileged and disenfranchised Americans, which were many.
While watching the series, I was struck by all the Roosevelts selfless work and giving spirits. All of the Roosevelts did their best to do what they could to better the lives of Americans for generations to come. How many politicians can you think of today who are as selfless as the Roosevelts?
Probably none. Which is sad, don’t you think?
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.