The Place of Franklin D. Roosevelt in History

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Effective greatness—that is Roosevelt’s title to a high place in the world’s history. Intellect and character are not enough; to them must be added personality, energy, and an accurate sense for the proper timing of action. Roosevelt was not an intellectual giant; but what of the personality that made the Arkansas sharecropper and the Harlem Negro feel they shared all the destinies of the republic? His character did not awe men by its massive strength; but what of the gifts that made him so efficient in harmonizing labor, capital, and agriculture at home, and getting discordant nations to pool their wartime efforts? He lacked the iron traits of Cromwell—but how incomparably more successful he wasl He did not have the powerful grasp of Bismarck, but how much more beneficent was his careerl In time his specific achievements may be blurred, but the qualities of his spirit will be remembered. For centuries Americans will think of him as one of those spirits who ride in front; we shall see his jaunty figure, his gaily poised head, still in advance of us. We shall hear his blithe voice in his words just before his death at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945:

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

 

© 1965 BY ALLAN NEVINS