tv Eleanor Roosevelt Volume 3 CSPAN December 20, 2016 9:02pm-10:20pm EST
good evening. i guess everyone didn't get the dress-up memo. there's lots of events going on, but i absolutely am so thrilled to welcome blanche wiesen book. i am jennifer raab and had the privilege of being at this incredible institution of which of course policy institute is a part and it couldn't be more fitting that we are here tonight to celebrate this book and this author and this subject in this
house. [applause] as all of you know so well we are here at the home eleanor roosevelt shared with her husband and i think it is fair to say her mother-in-law, too. franklin eleanor departed to washington in 1933 to assume the burden of life in the white house and the unprovoked challenges of economic depression and global war. while the book covers the war years in the decades after when eleanor roosevelt became not just the first lady of the land but of the world i think that it's fair to say her activism and justice and belief in the women's rights and requests for civil rights work commitments that were born and nurtured under this roof. raised in her her eyes ends
white and just launched her into becoming the eleanor that made such an impact on her country and planet. we are so fortunate as to your aunt eleanor decided to sell this house. it was an inspiration so this house is home and at the school was an incredible inspiration to the extraordinary author whose work we will be celebrating. we are thrilled to have you come back in this final volume. [applause] this is the talk we have all been waiting for because it is the celebration of the long
awaited biography of eleanor roosevelt. the first volume of the scholarship was published in 1992 when clinton was running for president. it took eleanor to the white whe house in seven years later in 1999 and the second volume appeared. in that book, blanche brought eleanor and us to the brink as never before that a central role she played in setting the moral and political agenda of her husband's administration. even when fdr did not follow eleanor's advice. i suppose we are very lucky blanch worked very long on the volume than in the presidential administrations that have come and almost nearly gone in the years since roosevelt has
returned as an essential part of hunter college and we are able to celebrate one of the beautiful portraits upstairs. of course the championship of humahuman rights around the word and big years before in 1962. a biography so movingly depicted the intersection of the figures in public-private lives including the account during the war as the political strains on the relationship increased. as one critic concludes, the series with robert has done for
johnson and blanche, it is wonderful to celebrate your work during the season. no one has followed in eleanor's footsteps and forged a new path in quite the way hillary clinton has done. while she credits eleanor as her inspiration nearly every step of the way she always spoke how much she saw her as one of the personal heroes calling her a woman that is larger than life but always approachable. as much as it is a celebration of a homecoming for eleanor i'm proud to say it's a homecoming for blanche who was president of the class of 1962. what a surprise. and one of the most accomplished alumni as a writer and teacher and activist and is now a professor of history at the
graduate center. in addition to the biography, she is the author of the declassified eisenhower when the non- revolution among many works. she's a familiar face for many appearances throughout the recent documentary the roosevelt. so, i hope tonight you will talk about your encounters. as we like to say from hamilton. [applause] we congratulate you and thank you for the incredible scholarship for making us so proud and for beating the quintessential graduate. there's an old expression you can always tell a hunter girl but you can't tell her much. it was written for blanche and
others a perfect straw out to help us realize the dream of transforming this home. it's always wonderful to have you in the wonderful theater really making this full circle. [applause] >> also talking about women of great political courage, we have in the room we have to say an enormous thank you. [applause] >> finally, our own wonderful assemblywoman who is pushing ahead for so many things, but in
particular her neighborhood institution hunter college. [applause] it is wonderful to have the book critic in our many book series in conversation with the wonderful blanche wiesen cook. [applause] thank you for being here. we've been waiting for this day. as the president says i've been waiting for this day since i met you interviewing you when i worked for "the new york times" and the second volume published and i found another place to interview you. but why don't you talk to begin with a story of eleanor roosevelt here in as good a way as any to get into your life's work and hers.
[applause] >> thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. for the wonderful people here i just have to say to my partner, my muse, my editor. [applause] >> how lovely a biographer with a playwright and a psychotherapist. [applause] >> i mean, really. and all the way from california, hunter was the home of audrey a very famous poet, and all the way from california, my dog children, -- dog children to be
judy was the editor and president in 1941, i was president in 1961, in my junior year as president of hunter college, we invited eleanor roosevelt to give a talk and she walked in and electrified and had a message for us. importing things are happening in north carolina. that was her message. we took two buses to north carolina whereupon we got arrested and there was a kind of nasty person, there was one from
imagine that, suing north carolina for the voter blockage going on. >> i have a god daughter -- death is here to. [applause] first of all this is a three volume book from the beginning to be and i'm going to try to focus as much as possible on this book but we obviously have to give to the themes of her life that you followed through the three volumes. the thing that struck me about this book and the second volume in particular is the title i
would give to both of those books is eleanor's fight because it seems as if she has a vision that in many ways correlates and it's certainly completely interwoven but then there is an additional thing. if you could tell me a little bit about what animates eleanor roosevelt vision in particular those as distinct from franklins plans and ideas and which they tie together. >> you know, the question what animates her is so important because what they want and need and that really is all about her
alcoholic family. her father died at the age of 34. how much do you have to drink to die at 34. succumb her mother died when she was eight essentially turning her face to the wall. her father died when she was ten. eleanor roosevelt then had the good fortune to go to school in england and meet the mentors that those of us had mentors that made us what we are and there are still no biographies at the graduate center for many years and every semester i tell my students.
so there was this great education and she inspired eleanor roosevelt and her message was what do you think. what is your opinion. she didn't want anybody to repeat anything if you wrote the paper repeated what i said she would tear it up and that was eleanor roosevelt lifelong journey everywhere she went. tell me, what do you want, what do you need. and the goal was to make it better for all people in want and need into trouble. and so the new deal confronted the depression with the goal of the full employment and
they pass a resolution. segregation has to go. it hurts children of color into children are persuaded that it's somehow better when in fact, they are not. and the language of that resolution of 1934 is in much tha much thelanguage of brown vf education. supporting the great events to the educators of america has opposed and says this is it, this is what we must do. we must recognize that we all go ahead together or are we all go
down together and that is her scene until the end of her life. >> what is interesting in your book you quote her in letters to friends and families almost undermining she constantly underplays them and yet she really does on the evidence of your book and i think what is important is that while claiming that she's not an expert politician, she's working both for and with franklin but any kind of larger way around him. i was fascinated by the variations of the things she would show him.
that is a kind of political calculation what she shared and what she didn't even if it was rhetorical vision. it was the wreckage -- and that we needed to build movements. she understood that from the 1920s and on. they need to make the politician see the issue because there are dixiecrat's dominated by the southern democratic party and eleanor speaks against greed and uses that word.
but you have to go door-to-door and block by block. she called it trooping for democracy. then we can have change. that was her contribution. never go anywhere without your gang. fdr was better at juggling because they had to negotiate those conservative realities. but she didn't. she wanted to organize movements and she did. >> i would like to know a little bit more about the political and personal reactions to one another over these conflicts
because you do show in the three volumes how interconnected the personal and political lives obviously were brought in ways that were satisfying to them on occasion and often deeply dissatisfied to both of them mainly for political reasons. >> eleanor roosevelt actually says fdr doesn't silence for and that the uab do share the vision for what the goal, what the endgame should be. where they disagree is what is possible, how do they keep the republicans out of office and dixiecrat quiet.
we need some advice here. so she was respectful. the only time he did to silence her were issues of international reality. >> it is a major part into the silence peon prepare from 33 to 38 becomes the silence beyond repair and then in this volume are great tragedy. and again, there's no biography of who was an amazing hero in my
opinion because really she is part of the german underground as they make the rescue operation which is the only rescue operation that is successful before the war in 1940. and let me just say one of the things i deal with in the buck let me just say that was very nice because it took me a long time to research eisenhower in a place called abilene kansas
which is a dry state you can't even get wind that the problem i got to be friends with the local sheriffs. they would shoot guns and drink. this went on for a very long time and they would send books to review and one she could understand what she was reading. they couldn't possibly mean what they seem to. so i called joe and w if we hadn to be friends.
this is a book that should stay in print forever. >> and he wrote them subsequently three other books and is just a great esteem the biographer. i said he isn't even mentioned anywhere in your book and he said i hated her. let's talk about it. so we had dinner. one of the things i don't deal with th this all of the jealous. she ignored all that was swirling around waiting at the white house together.
it is in the military history and as you know, i said don't be silly. i was doing diplomatic and military history. they took me up to hyde park and me went through papers and show had been the good son and anything he wanted to do some anything she didn't want to do she said i just care about power.
so then i knew there is a story here and i was looking for something else and i felt okay the centennial, and i will be done. 1984. that was my thought, but it didn't happen that way. >> the original date was octob october 11. the bottom line that he didn't read the book but she called me up and said i hate your book.
>> it made many people think of the wonderful book and other people agreed. >> i don't think she was a homophobe. she just hated how important he was to eleanor roosevelt. the cigar may not always be a cigar at the corner of your mouth against mindless is always the northeast corner. we don't know what happens. the doors are closed by the shades are drawn. i don't go there. but we have the evidence, even though he destroyed so many letters to the three i created a
joe had said there were lots and lots of papers which all of a sudden disappeared. everybody knows why or how. >> so what you are saying is your books grew from the biographer himself and recognized the gaps in his own books and filled by another historian and biographer. that is a really inspirational force. >> i heard joe give a speech in which he said he is infinite and there has been criticism about how the epilogue condenses the years of roosevelt's life and legacy and i don't deal with even the cause of her death or friendships.
so eleanor roosevelt is infinite as joe said and there've been lots othere would belots of peof things. >> they have a lot of instructions from you. there was another person payments to remember their name also, judith pratt. >> was me go back because the last visit i had i said what is up with nobody giving you credit because they never even mentioned when it was discussed. they said don't write it. that. i said i'm going to write it, so tell me a story.
at first i thought it was to protect her children but then i thought that was crazy because when they were writing about the divorce and her three children she had. and then those that deposited the boxes of books in our dining room. >> pretty soon it will be again. it was to protect her family. she had two brothers that fought here and there. the connection she got her phd from the university in 1931 and got a job at hunter so she came
her work was the german underground end of her rescue and she and elliott go back in 1936 during the nazi olympics and get dozens and dozens of people out. it is an incredible story that someone needs to write. >> one of the things that is so important about these people in her life is two things, you show in the books her commitment to young people in particular, so i would like you to say a little bit about that. but also, the circle of friends that didn't like one another or were jealous of one another. it seems that they all could sense that she had a great loneliness and often amazingly
died just before world war ii began to. at that moment seems to both of the ghastly depressed and liberate her as does world war ii. it is almost as if she asked ifr inhibitions about what she can do, the ziggy franklin and then even on the world stage. she travels around the world and if you can say something about her international travels as the eyes and ears on the new deal, she once again fuels that she is doing this and that it is shunting her aside. it is striking how different her own view is from what it seems
is accomplished on a day-to-day basis. >> she had wanted first in 1940 she wanted a job. she wanted to go to europe and become like claire got loose. she wanted to become a journalist and report from the front. then if she wanted a job and she thought she could be a diplomat. french, german, italian. i'm guessing she spoke spanish very well. but the bottom line is she thought she could do some wonderful diplomatic work and she didn't get a job and are the seems to send her away when he is meeting with people he doesn't want her to interfere with like churchill so she goes
first to england and that is an amazing trip. in england during the heist of madness and ben eleanor roosevelt and the pacific it's totally amazing. >> the pictures in that book are so touching and moving. >> she really does visit every single military hospital and speaks to every single wounded officer. and she doesn't just say what is your name. she gets the home address to write to the parents and get
their stories and gets what's personal and spends time with. the other thing she does, she protests the cruelties of segregation, the obscenities on the military basis. they could have an african-american canteen. she goes in and she sees a soldier eating ice cream and she says may i have a bite of your ice cream cone and she bites it and gives it back and says no, that didn't hurt at all. but it's that kind of thing she's amazing. and she created for us wherever
she went. i don't think we realize to this day how long segregation in the military, how long segregation in the military and in general it was eisenhower who died in executive order invaded every single military base. truman said he was going to do it but he didn't. and then folks don't know black and white, christian and hebrew during world war ii and in 1958 he issues an executive order to integrate, 1958. at the head of the red cross was
one of his great military buddies writes you can't do this and they won't get any blood. blood. dunn, leadership. okay. >> one of the things i found interesting about the autobiography because she did a lot of autobiographical work. it's almost impossible to believe that it was published in the late 40s she was as honest as she was about her relationship with franklin and her view of franklin roosevelt and you quoted on the last page of your book the conclusion about the life he might have
liked and the sentence that has always lived in my mind for years and is at the end of your book, i was one of those that served the purpose and what do you think it seems to me both a happy thing inflated with sad at the same time. what do you think she meant about that as the summation of the relationship? he puts a very high so she can't walk back and forth but she did.
so he didn't like that and more and more he doesn't want it. so they have this on-again off-again conversation. but she does recognize that he is not always happy. it's interesting there is a moment when the children noticed that it's very warm and embracing and at that moment when the two of them fdr says we could get back together again and eleanor doesn't want to. i have an independent life now and i'm going to keep that
independent life. but there is that one moment where there could have been another enemy but eleanor roosevelt doesn't want to be the housewife, the partner. she was writing a daily column, she is out and about and that fills her heart. but that's what she needs. people were her first love, not an individual person, but people. >> i would like to ask before we go to questions from the audience about your work as a biographer all these years since we first showed you the papers that would be the basis of the book i have two questions.
one, you were talking about the letters. those were so controversial. when i got the first volume in particular, you are laying out this is the evidence of what is said, yet you are not drawing the conclusions that were claimed so the book seems to me to open so much more than they closed to eat have you thought differently about the reaction to the first volume in particular and do you think other historians have thought differently about what you did so that is my first question.
>> i think the world has changed so dramatically in our lifetime in a world we could get married, imagine that. we taught a class once at john jay the first women's studies class in the 1970s. the. they were huge and astonishing into prewar opposing as divorced women. i had the academic units needing it is a fire drill.
from the 70s to the '90s we all went very slowly. now there is a straight woman that did a book on eleanor and hick and she's a straight woman that says of course and she credits him for shaping eleanor roosevelt, which is a little bit beyond. but he said look at all these letters eu right to me. everybody wants to know how you spend your day. and i do say that in volume two in 1936.
we have traveled a wonderful road to this moment and business backlash. i would like to give of our roosevelt advice to women in political life because i send this to hillary clinton long ago. you cannot take anything personally. you cannot bear grudges. you cannot get discouraged to easily. you have to take defeat over and
over. women that are willing to be leaders must be standing out and shot out more and more they are going to do it and that more and more they showed. but remember, she added, every woman in public life needs to develop a skin as tough as rhinoceros hide. [applause] >> before we go to questions, the thing i wondered, he worked on these volumes over 33 years and it's a question that i wondered about are the things he would do differently now or think there are things i missed
misguided and lay them out properly. so as you are looking back at it but it might be done differently if you knew about what you found at the end so that you could talk about it at the beginning. >> that is a great question. eleanor roosevelt never stopped growing and changing so as one goes chronologically she's always known about i it but that the issues have changed. eleanor roosevelt really despised the u.s. prison system and here we have the prison industrial complex. we have more people incarcerated than any other country in the world. and eleanor roosevelt would
visit women in prisons and write articles and say i could have been any one of the women on the inside and i wonder if that means she could have killed her husband. [laughter] the bottom line is we shouldn't have prisons. she was what we now call restorative justice. we need counseling, we need medical programs, we need social work and we need full employment and quality education. at one point she said i can give you full employment and 100% literacy. one teacher and five students.
[applause] it's that kind of fish and thatt she went around and then the reform school for wayward children, she would have been over for dinner and encourage music and sports. sports. what you need, music and sports. here we live in a moment we are closing off in public schools. second of all, we are ending music and sports programs. that was an atrocity so i'm happy to say the unions have been protesting. we need unions, music and sports to have 100% literacy and full employment.
supports the entire package but it's supposed to be united and to divide economic and social rights from civil and political rights was a compromise she agreed to that i frequent. i'm sure she regretted it in the west has to this day not even had one conversation about economic and social life. jimmy carter brought up the declaration of human rights during his administration. it was not voted upon. it was not ratified. it was george herbert walker bush who after the soviet union collapsed said okay now it's time to support the civil and political universal declaration of human rights. most of the world supports those but we don't. there's a group that is fighting
to get economic and social rights on the u.s. agenda and if hillary is elected they will try to have hillary be the one to ratify the economic and social rights. >> the unfinished work of eleanor roosevelt, well i think at that moment we should stop and open it to questions from the audience. thank you blanche for being here. [applause] and we have a microphone that will go around for your questions. there is someone at the back. >> obviously franklin died in 45 before the cold war really began and so how did the eleanor and
silenced, reconcile the imperatives of cold war realpolitik's and the bedfellows that put america with, with her commitment to universal human rights? >> eleanor roosevelt actually became a bit of an anti-communist, a very vigorous anti-communist but she said we have to keep talking with each other and she would invite soviet members of the delegation to her home for dinner, for lunch. we have to keep talking to each other. we don't want war but she didn't trust the soviets at all and a lot of negotiations, i will support this if you support -- support that went on and so you
know the universal declaration of human rights gets passed and the soviets abstain over some issues but they don't vote against it and that was her juggling. does that answer your question? >> any more questions? i am shocked. >> she is one of the founders of the women strike for peace. [applause] >> you know i just want to say say. >> no, no, no used the mic as it's being recorded. >> i said i have been angry and hollering and screaming and
working for all the things that we can never seem to get. this country is a disaster. i don't know how you can feel so positive about it. eleanor is wonderful but wider and we have more eleanor's today? when we have more at two babies and distress and anger today? all the young people today are quiet. they are too busy with her ipads. >> blanche says the a question you can answer? >> maybe other people can answer it younger people that i feel very encouraged. let me say two things. eleanor roosevelt always said the pledge of allegiance is politically incorrect. i believe that and i feel very optimistic because i think black lives matter is a movement. i think that our students -- i
had a class and the first day of class, they'll win out for bernie and they said aren't you going to take us to the parc? i said what do you mean? there was class. we have to go to the park for bernie. they all went. my students were veterans at john jay going to the park for bernie so this semester they were also all for bernie and they didn't want to vote so i persuaded them that they really had to vote because we could push hillary rodham clinton to the progressive fold that we need to push her. we need a movement. we don't want a man who looks like mussolini and sounds like hitler. we need a movement so by the third class i think i did persuade them that they are so
vigorous and they read common dreams.org. they read it every day. they come in with lots of things to argue about. i feel very hopeful and i feel very hopeful about movements that are organized everywhere. i feel frightened by the call to fascism and violence that we are seeing coming from those people and it's a very scary moment. i agree with you to that extent it's very frightening, as sully frightening and i want to say a word about john edgar comey. i mean, e-mail, you know there are how many million homeless people, only -- almost 30 million american homeless people and over half of the number of homeless americans are veterans and nobody is talking
about homeless americans. then there are all the incarcerated and then there all the unemployed and we are talking about females. one looks at eleanor roosevelt fbi files. hoover hated eleanor roosevelt and her fbi file which we got information from our unbelievable. he hates her personally and the calls are that old cow. actually the old cow is at it again. the old cow was meeting with the communists. every civil rights leader has -- like virginia dürer. all the great southern whites and integrationists were attacked by john edgar hoover
and called communists. who else would be for integration and of course none of them were. virginia burr, i mean please. >> you are hopeful. >> i am hopeful that who the hell promoted this man to be the fbi had? i mean he was george bush's appointment. what is he doing here and why is he doing it and why isn't he being removed instead of hillary clinton being hounded? it's really aggravating. [applause] >> a question from upstairs about eleanor roosevelt. is there a microphone and? we are bringing you a microphone. thank you. >> blanche did to me 54 years ago what i hope hillary will do
to trump. i was the runner up. iran against her at the hunter in 1961 because my brother said blanche has nobody running against her. that's undemocratic to edith come you have to run against her. i said i like blanche and i want to blanche to npd said but it's democracy. you have to run against her. >> did you run a very bad campaign on purpose? >> he did. he ran for president of the bronx and iran against blanche after my brother had the elections the same day. might rather proudly came home and he said his campaign was for me first and he lost by one vote, his own. i however prepared a speech that
blanche could maybe be proud of the not ashamed of when she was running against me. there were 3000 faces in the audience. i was not a happy camper. blanche i was so glad you won. you cannot know how loved she was and how active she was. my question is for blanche and then i have a comment about my brother's relationship with eleanor roosevelt. my brother and i went to her mother and three we were students at hunter in the bronx. we said moments we are signing up to go on the freedom rides and she said it's very dangerous. he said mom, that's the way you raised us and she said you are right, you have to go. i've never been so proud of my mother in my life to blanche, how did your parents react? >> they were supportive.
>> isn't that wonderful? >> he were supportive. >> it's not because they didn't love us. >> they thought it was the right thing to do. now my brother and i and many of lynch's and my mutual friends started an organization called students for a democratic society, not students but citizens for democratic society where we would have all the colleges in new york, city colleges or nyu, whatever come to the group in support candidates that we felt would represent what roosevelt, eleanor roosevelt represented and we supported those candidates. we got rid of tammany hall.
we got a lot of really excellent candidates elected because we worked hard. here is his meeting. we needed somebody on our board to give us credibility and my brother heard that eleanor roosevelt was going to be on television so he went early and she was on stage and he went up to say hello to her and talk about our group and her perhaps being on the board and she said that's so interesting, please sit down and talk to me about it. then the lights went on and he was on television. [laughter] she introduced him on the show and he got to participate in the day and she said not only will i sign up but i'm going to have senator lehman signed also. just an amazing woman, so thank
you for writing those incredible books. >> thank you. >> thanks so much. >> i presented them to my children and you were and you are all their heroes. >> we have time for one more question. >> i notice that you called the years 1933 to 1938 in your previous volume the defining years for eleanor. my sense is they were also the defining years for franklin and i wonder if you have any insight as to how he moved from the 1933 franklin to the 1938 franklin in
your work and riding? >> i think as the new deal unfolded and as he saw what was possible especially about housing and security there were so many changes that were wonderful and i think there was henry wallace and he was very important. i think that fdr, i didn't write that. the editor called the book the defining years because i think that was apt and it really is, who can we be? what can we be in this country? can we really be a democracy? can we have opportunity for everybody, housing for
everybody, education for everybody and that became the goal. became franklin's goal and eleanor's goal and there were some effort really to make that happen during the height of the new deal and it was eleanor roosevelt who fought for the g.i., their rights, education for everybody, real opportunity. this has to happen and reagan defunded and the bones so much and the reagan revolution is really horrific and this neoliberal what the hell is that moment i think a new movement, new movements are a warning and we just have to continue to fight. it's never over until it's over. revolution is about the process.
it's not an event. [applause] >> thank you blanche. [applause] >> i wonder if we could ask. >> thank you very much blanche, congratulations and we will have a reception upstairs in the book signing in the four freedoms are meant thank you all for coming and once again thank you so three. >> thank you. [applause] >> i think the challenges are
very great and i think we have unfortunately over the course of the last many years done serious damage to our capabilities. >> we are living in a period. there are a lot of flashpoints in the and strangeness going to have to look at that kind of world and obviously define policies that we needed in order to deal with that but then develop a defense policies to confront that kind of work. >> amidst the shifting sands of contemporary culture and while we have stood without apology for the sanctity of life, the importance of merits and the freedom of religion. >> friday night beginning at 8:00 farewell speeches attributed to several outgoing senators including harry reid, barbara boxer, kelly ayotte. this week in primetime on c-span.