A Hero, Then And Now


THIS NATION is busy this week remembering its greatest modern leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt '04, on the centenary of his birth. There have been proclamations from our President and our governor; there will be ceremonies and speeches and dedications; and newspapers across the world will once more display his jaunty grin.

Amidst the general tumult, we would like to get our two cents in, for we feel a special bond with FDR. He was, in the spring of 1903, the president of The Crimson, presiding over the fortunes of our paper through a stormy period that included the first Lampoon parody of the paper. By all accounts, he did a steady, sturdy job for The Crimson, presiding over the paper's move to new quarters and producing 107 issues of Cambridge's Only Breakfast Table Daily.

We suspect, from his undergraduate editorials and from the course of his life, that Roosevelt would not have wanted his birthday celebrated in entirely a political fashion, and so we must comment on the peculiar paradox his centenary witnesses: a nation eager to celebrate the memory of man whose legacy this same nation has only recently repudiated. Repudiated by electing a president and a Congress who have little compassion and much class consciousness; who would sully the memory of brave men who fought other, noble wars by engaging themselves in brutal repression abroad; who would reduce government from a friend of the people to a friend of the wealthy. Ronald Reagan stands for everything FDR stood against--he answers hard times with harder times; he sticks inflexibly to a single policy in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is not working; and he, with his new china and new boots, symbolizes only the decay and flabbiness of our spirit.

By way of contrast, FDR was renewal incarnate. Certainly, any veteran of four terms made mistakes. But he came to a nation where there was only hopelessness, and gave it courage and a smile. He came to a Europe that had virtually no free people left, and brought not only fresh troops but fresh determination. It was not just that the programs and the soldiers eventually had their effect; it was that his confidence--his cockiness--had an immediate, uplifting effect. In an age if anything more cynical than our own--in a country dotted with Hoovervilles--he made people believe everything would work out all right. And, by and large, it did.