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Mar 22, 2005 6:31 am


The other Roosevelt legacy



The article in HNN’s “Breaking News” on Roosevelt descendants reminds us that this past week marks the 100th anniversary of a most crucial alliance in 20th Century American History: The signing of the marriage contract between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on March 17, 1905. The happy event was not itself without its curious White House connections: in the absence of her father, the orphaned bride was given away by her Uncle Theodore, the President of the United States, who had arrived for the ceremony fresh from the St. Patrick’s Parade. When the ceremony was finished, the President went for refreshments into another room, taking all the guests with him and leaving the bride and groom suddenly quite alone!

In these days when privatization of Social Security is on the table, many different people have spoken of the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt. I hear less about the impressive contributions of the Roosevelts as a team. Not the least of Franklin Roosevelt’s innovations was in encouraging (or permitting) his wife to take an independent role and to act as an ombudsman for the administration. Mrs. Roosevelt carved out a special role for herself that has served as a standard for First Ladies since (one that is doubtless unattainable--I still am amazed when I think of the reaction that would erupt if a First Lady today took up a sponsored newspaper column and radio or TV contract). The partnership of the presidential couple seems even more durable and beyond attack than the substantive welfare state programs.

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