Character Above All: Ten presidents from FDR to George Bush

Wilson, Robert A., ed., Doris Kearns Goodwin, “FDR”

Simon & Schuster, 1995

pp. 25-38

Gregory Peck tells of waiting at a harbor when he was a boy to catch a glimpse of the President. He had no idea of the extent of the President’s disability. “So when the young Gregory Peck stood on the dock that day and saw Roosevelt being carried off the boat like a child, he was so stunned that he started to cry.” But Roosevelt put everybody at ease. He put his hat on, took his cigarette holder in his mouth, waved to the crowd, “and smiled his dazzling smile . . . . He seemed with every gesture to be saying, ‘I’m not pitying myself, so why should you worry about me?’” p. 27: Eleanor, as shy and ugly and outside as they come, “felt a special affinity for defenseless children, immigrants, minorities, and the poor.” She was brutally honest with FDR about his the suffering. P. 29: FDR “was so confident in his own strength that he never feared that a strong woman would make him look weak.” P. 30: FDR combined warmth and frankness. “When he evaded a reporter’s question, he did so frankly.” P. 33: He was absolutely fearless. P. 36: “He could be devious and manipulative to gain his way, and he could temporize and procrastinate because he wanted people to like him. He was too kind to fire his drunken valet or his tyrannical White House cook, a German woman who would never fix the President’s favorite foods. And yet he cared about people and they cared about him. His deviousness had big frank goals.” P. 38: When he died, America poured out her heart. Along the tracks from Warm Springs to D.C., “thousands gathered to say goodbye. They stood in clusters, heads bowed, openly weeping. ‘They came from the fields and the farms,’ one reporter wrote, ‘from the hamlets and crossroads and in the cities they thronged by the thousands to stare with humble reverence and awe.’ Merriman Smith noted that ‘men stood with their arms around the shoulders of their wives and mothers. Men and women openly wept.’” David McCullough: FDR was ‘the most colossal figure in the White House in this century.’”