By Michael P. Riccards
In 1926, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was desperately trying to restore the use of his legs and spent a considerable amount of time in Warm Springs, Georgia. With Louis Howe’s dedication, he still kept his hand in politics, trying to stay visible and relevant.
The Republican New Era economics was one of speculation and good times. FDR was asked to make a speech to the schoolboys at Milton Academy, and for some reason he agreed to come to Massachusetts and speak his mind about the state of America.
Aaron Gordon has tried in Motherboard to resurrect that speech and present it as a precursor to FDR’s later political philosophy embedded in the far reaching New Deal. Very few copies are extant and it is even not listed in the president’s digital collection at Hyde Park.
In the speech, FDR argues that the problems of the world are “caused as much by those who fear change as by those who seek revolution. In government, in science, in industry, in the arts, inaction and apathy are the most potent foes. Two obstacles, perversely complementary in their symmetry, impeded progress. One was the lack of cohesion on the part of the liberal thinkers themselves who share a common vision but disagree on methods of realizing it. The other was the solidarity of the opposition to a new outlook [which] welds together the satisfied and the fearful.”
It is the thinking of a young and isolated Roosevelt, but it is not so far from his statement in 1933 that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. He promised bold experimentation, which confused the liberals and also antagonized the conservatives. The situation has remarkably similar tones to today’s political discourse..
Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief.