tv The Presidency Roosevelts Kennedys - Political Relationships CSPAN February 8, 2021 11:20am-11:46am EST
safety markcap lin watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. >> a conversation now with the president of the john f. kennedy library. in particular the alliance between eleanor roosevelt and jfk. >> welcome to another edition of "at home with the roosevelts." today we're going to talk about the relationship between two of the most important families, political families, in american history in the 20th century. roosevelt and kennedys. to assist me, i'm joined by the director of jfk libraries.
>> allen price here. thank you for having me. >> this is a difficult relationship. two family that's are dynasties in the way they impacted american life, and there is a component that many people don't understand. not only is there france franklin and john f. kennedy. i think will be start with the relationship between franklin roosevelt and joseph kennedy. he was appointed head of the securities and exchanges commission which is like putting the fox in charge of the hen
house. it created a relationship where he became a very close con if i don't ending up as ambassador to saint james. do you want to talk about how that has beened? >> it is an interesting time. i want to go back a tiny bit before that. they are graduating from high school, whoever is the president in that motion i think has a profound impact on them. and fdr is the president as jfk comes of age and through young adulthood. i think it is the nation that is informed by fdr.
i think the port of st. james, he has a direct connection. there is a moment when they have a jer man u boat and j.f.k. is asked by his father to look after the surviving u.s. passengers and their families in that transition. so he gets a little bit of responsibility in that moment. so i think it informs his notion of public service. ultimately he goes and signs up to go to war. ultimately being able to be accepted in the navy. and i think to go to war under a president, the only president that you have really been conscious of as an adult can't help but impact your sense of what is leadership in the future. >> and because of john f kennedy being in england, in this period
smeedly prior to his kingdom, he wrote a book about that. you want to uk ta about that? >> in addition to being in england and from there, touring through different parts of europe, he observes the lead up to world war ii. and some of that is research, cases at harvard, and he turns that into a book, why england shept slept. and he looks at what is the build up to later. i think it informs his view of the cold war and how do you respond. it is an interesting time. >> interestingly that book that john f. kennedy gave a book to franklin roosevelt and he signed
it. so he housed, you, he collected rare books and that is one of our most precious possessions. you may not know this story but in 1940 when kennedy came back from europe he came to visit the fdr library that was under construction at the time. and he left a gift for fdr, and we have the note that -- the copy of the thank you note that he wrote to jfk. and it is sort of a scribble note that is hard to read, but it appears to say thank you for the machine gun and goggles. which everyone is like can you imagine john f. kennedy dropping off a machine gun at the
presidential library. it said marine gun, it was a spear gun for fishing because he knows he loved to be in water and the goggles were like swimming goggles. so we have never been able to figure out what happened to the spear gun and goggles, but they were close. >> they were. they were. there was a lot of intersections over the years, and the continuing conversation between jfk and eleanor is also significant. >> yeah, right before the united states gets into the war and joseph kennedy is the ambassador, he starts to side with germany. he is telling them they have not been able to survive and he thinks that america needs peace.
and this creates a real fraction between him and the president, and a little bit between him and his sons. >> i think it is a good bit of friction inside of the kennedy family to go against your father would have been a tough road to go. >> yeah, joseph kennedy almost ran against fdr in 1940. it was an unprecedented third term. and at that point kennedy felt like he had something to offer, not to mention significant funds to support his candidacy. but fdr kept him just long enough to prevent him from running and brought him back and they parted ways. it became quite nasty between the two of them. >> and a lot of people thought about space. >> john f kennedy joined the
navy. talk about how that influenced his presidency and fdr as commander chief. >> a lot of people recognize today the exceptional circumstances of his joining the navy. he overcame a lot of physical disabilities. he was disqualified for service, lower back injuries, and he had a number of other malities. his father joked that if a mosquito bit jfk, the mosquito would die because he was always sick. he was initially rejected and disqualified. there was a conversation with elite navel person, officer of
navel operations, i believe. he was assigned to a desk job. president kennedy wanted to go to the front and then he was given a command in the pacific theater. so certainly all of those operations informed his public service and deepenned his feeling of democracy and it was from a world that did not believe in that kind of freedom. he said even in his debates with candidate nixon his address to the nation at that point is can the world live half free and half slave. he prefers to him in that sense,
and he was referring to democracy versus kmun schism, but it is an interesting take around the world. >> there is another incident that i think had an enormous influence of jfk which was the death of his brother. >> yes, according to the family dynamic, his older brother was the one that went into politics. it is a bombing run, they were discharged from the plane, his father turned to him and it was now his turn to lead the family into politics. that was an interesting identity shift for him.
he is being friendly and well liked. but not all that serious. not all that serious. they are seeing the war develop, but they are really focused on studies, and his new haven service becomes a more serious person in understanding how the world works. >> when world war ii ends, fdr dies in april, and the world changes and we enter into a new phase in the kennedys. now eleanor roosevelt is arguably the most powerful women in america. a major force in the democratic party. their political career starts to
intersect and eleanor has very different political views. do you want to talk about how that is? >> you can create me if off off on this, but i think a large bit of the early skism revolves around senator mccarthy. even if the senate votes to sensor mccarthy, and they have a speech ready to support that censure. i think that eleanor infers from that that he may not be as strong of a candidate.
and i believe engages in public criticism of kennedy as not being the right candidate. and kennedy, i think wisely, does nots engage in a public battle. i think he would not win that battle, but he writes and asks her to consider the pacts and be open to meeting with him and it's only in the in-person conversations that his genuine curiosity, his willingness to learn, and his patriotism is available to her. i can appreciate given what she knew at the time, and her greating familiarity why it was difficult for her to whereat her mind around kennedy. >> and i think one of the councils to the senate committee, they certainly tarnished jfk in her eyes as well. >> right.
>> and there is no question that she was a supporter. she did not feel that the kennedys were strong enough to support civil rights. i think she really held a grudge to be honest. against his father, joe. she criticized fdr during the war, and i think she never fully let go of that ax that she liked to grind. she here to visit, and they have pictures on the wall. after the convention when kennedy gets the nomination, he knows he has to win her over.
>> we have some of those photos at well. he has to go meet with her. never a big sporter of ad lie stevenson. she worried about the relationship with mccarthy, but his age and inexperience. she didn't think he has a strong enough record to run on. and it is only in person that he is able to convince her. so i think that is true to who kennedy was throughout his life. there is so much evidence of once people met him they won people over. he had a smile that was completely disarming and charming. there is no amount of correspondence that will convey that, it has to be done in person. >> although eleanor had feelings
about jack kennedy, she hated richard nixon. one of my favorite letters was the one she wrote to jfk the day after the first televised debate between nixon and jfk. and it is classic eleanor roosevelt and it is passive aggressive compliment-criticism. one of the tone is "i was watching the debate last night with some friends and although i thought you did very well i thought i would share some of their comments with you. and she, an interesting side note here, one of the people was lloyd benson. you may remember many years later in a famous reference in a vice presidential debate, i knew john kennedy. that lloyd benson. but he came across as too
confident. and that he needed to include the audience more in his answers. i think you might agree with me if -- dot dot dot. it is classic, but to eleanor's credit she campaigned for him vigorously and she did what he is felt needed to be done for the democrats to win. she had repeated run ins with eisenhower. she hoped to resurrect some ideals. but then you get into once kennedy gets elected, the first thing he does is go to roosevelt. >> yes, yes. it is fascinating. i think not just for that campaign, but for presidential campaigns at large it is always an interesting challenge particularly when kennedy is trying to frame himself as
standing up for a new generation, right? new ideas, a new energy, and trying to be new new new. at the same time he knows full well that if he doesn't win over the establishment he will go nowhere. so he has to get support and i think that is fascinating. but he is, i think a really good sense of history. but some new ideas and some new energy, and i think one of the things he gets from fdr is the importance of innovation in leadership. and fdr did really innovative things when i think about how -- i'm just going to go off on retreat and not talk to anybody. that is just turning the war. i think president kennedy knew
that he needed to take time to think about the bigger picture and needed to commit resources behind an idea or it won't go anywhere. that's not just money, that's political capitol, and you have to build up that political capitol first. so he pays very close attention to to those relationships. so in our day of infamy, president kennedy early near morning called to express birthday wishes to john garner. i believe he is turning 93 or 95, something in that range. and you know a real student of history and a real -- a person who really pays attention to relationships does those personal touches throughout. i think it make a huge
difference throughout his career. >> despite all of her work, her years of work with the united nations, you know, jfk puts her in charge of the status of women understanding that at this point in time, this idea of equality for women and including women more women into the political accomplishment to stop some of the discrimination being levelled against women in all of the industries, and i think it was interesting that he would appointor in that role. i think it went to one of her passions that is -- she fought for gender equality all of her adult life. >> and i think it is a brilliant pick and i think eleanor did a
brilliant job with it. i think the subject came up repeatedly in his press conferences. i think he may not have appointed as many swim, but the level to which he did involve women to his administration was a breakthrough for is time and certainly the appearance of women journalists and they called to account for what will you do to continue your campaign pledge for equal pay for women, roles, and i think by today's standards we would say could have should have would have done more. but if for those times i think that he did some amazing things. >> so eleanor dies, and they
come back up with harry truman and every major politic figure in america to pay respected at her funeral. and i think there is a true sincerity at that moment to the passage of this great woman and her acknowledgment of her role in the democratic party. i think it is an honor he felt she earned. >> i can't find words that accurate by capture this. so many people, obviously he can't have fdr support at that point.
>> both of these men, jfk and fdr essentially gave their lives in duty. they created a rez sentence with the american people people both of these people will truly believe in public service. they have a duty and responsibility to serve the american people and they both did in very, very extraordinary ways. and i think john f kennedy's inaugural address remains one of the best of all time. >> i have to agree and i have to say fdr and the events of his time as president shaped the nation and shaped that generation in profound ways. president kennedy and president
nixon is only three years older, and president herbert walker bush is only six years older than kennedy and world war ii shapes them. and so many other kennedy siblings serve in the war, the military, or in civilian roles. and i think president kennedy would remind us to always to do that. you're doing a great job up there and i hope you have a great year. >> paul, always great to talk, i always look forward to visiting hyde park again soon. >> thank you, that is it for today, we hope to see you again in the future.
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