Exploring the Presidency of FDR
Last weekend, the Ashbrook Center hosted 18 teachers in Hyde Park, NY for a discussion about the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and visits to the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Park Site and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum
Drawing on primary source texts – mostly taken from Prof. Gordon Lloyd’s The Two Faces of Liberalism: How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debate Shapes the 21st Century – participants explored FDR’s response to the Great Depression as a candidate, and as President. Our participants discussed how FDR, in his address accepting the presidential nomination in 1932, promised to “break foolish traditions” and how, in his Inaugural Address he asked Congress for “broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”
Our discussion also included a number of writings by Herbert Hoover. Many of our participants were surprised to learn that Hoover “stuck around” throughout FDR’s presidency, both to criticize New Deal policies, and to articulate an alternative political vision. We discussed his defense of his early response to the Depression in his 1932 acceptance of the Republican nomination, where he argued his administration “met the situation with proposals to private business and the Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counter attack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.” We also discussed his argument, in “The Crisis to Free Men,” that “Either we shall have a society based upon ordered liberty and the initiative of the individual, or we shall have a planned society that means dictation, no matter what you call it or who does it.”
The Ashbrook Center thanks its co-sponsor, Liberty Fund, for funding this program, and Prof. Gordon Lloyd (Pepperdine University) for serving as Discussion Leader. Thanks also to all of the teachers who joined us in a lively and important conversation!