Image by dbking
FDR Memorial statue (the original statue)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT (1882-1945)
•Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States
•He was the only man ever elected to four terms as President
•When he was inaugurated for the first time (1933), the Great Depression was at its height and 25% of the U.S. labor force was unemployed
•He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945, less than three months after his fourth inauguration and four months before the end of the Second World War
•He was an excellent swimmer and sailor when he was young and wanted to join the Navy but his family discouraged that
•He trained as a lawyer but never practiced law
•He married his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1905; they formed a strong partnership and she worked closely with him throughout his political career
•He entered politics in 1910 when he was elected state senator in the New York State legislature
•In 1921 he contracted polio while sailing off the coast of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada; he went to bed exhausted and was unable to move his legs when he woke the following morning; he never walked again without crutches or other outside support
•He was elected Governor of New York in 1928
•Many of his major social programs, developed to bring the United States to economic recovery, are referred to as the "Alphabet Soup" agencies because they are usually referred to by their acronyms; among them are:
…The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) — which brought hydroelectric power to the rural areas of the Tennessee Valley
…The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) — which trained young men in Army-like boot camps and then sent them out to reclaim the land and work on ecological projects
…The Works Progress Administration (WPA) — which funded new buildings and the arts, including photography, sculpture, and murals in public buildings
•When he came to Washington DC as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he was disappointed to find there was no memorial to Thomas Jefferson, whom he considered the first truly democratic president; he remedied that during his presidency by encouraging Congress to build the Jefferson Memorial, which he dedicated on April 13, 1943
The Water Theme In The FDR Memorial
One of the major themes in the memorial involves the image of water. The memorial includes seven different waterfalls and sits between the Potomac River and the Tidal Basin. The theme of water did recur in FDR’s life:
•The Roosevelt family made their money in shipping
•FDR himself was an excellent swimmer and good sailor and wanted to join the U.S. Navy
•FDR was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913
•FDR contracted polio while swimming off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada
•FDR used swimming and hydrotherapy to build and maintain his strength after his illness; he was quoted as saying, "The water got me here and the water is going to have to bring me back"
•FDR’s most famous economic policy concept was that of "priming the pump" — by adding a little water to a hand-operated water pump, you can get a lot of water to flow (see the waterfalls under "Second Term Room" for more)
•One of FDR’s most successful New Deal programs was the Tennessee Valley Authority, which harnessed the power of water to bring electricity to rural areas
•FDR spent much of his time at a therapeutic spa in Warm Springs, Georgia — so much that it became known as "The Little White House"; it was there that he died in 1945
The water also serves a very practical purpose from the perspective of the architect: it helps to mask the sound of airplanes flying along the Potomac River on their way to and from the Reagan National Airport
—The largest memorial in Washington DC at over 16 acres
•The Memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997
•The primary architect was Lawrence Halprin, who worked very closely with a committee of the artists who created the sculptures and art in the memorial
•The walls of the FDR Memorial are made of red granite from South Dakota
•Halprin sought to create a memorial that would not overwhelm the visitor but would instead draw him or her through a series of impressions of life in the United States during the Roosevelt Years
•The memorial was designed to have four chambers, one for each of FDR’s terms
•A fifth chamber was added to the entrance of the memorial during 2001 and includes a life-size statue of FDR in his wheelchair; this chamber represents the years prior to his presidency
THE FIRST TERM ROOM
•The first room is dedicated to FDR’s first term as president, 1933-1937
•When FDR was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, one-fourth of the workforce was unemployed and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression
•The quotation near the entrance "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" was taken from FDR’s First Inaugural Address and epitomizes FDR’s contribution of reassuring the American public that the country could and would recover from the Depression if people would begin to believe in themselves and their ability to produce
•The presidential eagle to the right as you enter this room was created by Tom Hardy. Unlike most bronze sculptures, this piece was created by welding — each of the individual feathers was welded in place
•The bas-relief to the left of the waterfall, "The First Inaugural" was created by Robert Graham; it was based on a frame of a newsreel of the inaugural parade and shows FDR in his open-top limousine waving to the crowds
•The waterfall in this room should be compared to that in the next room; the water falls straight down with no direction and ends in turmoil and confusion; this may be interpreted as the unfocused, unproductive energy of the United States during the Depression
THE SECOND TERM ROOM
•FDR was inaugurated for the second time on March 4, 1938; this room symbolizes his second term, 1938-1941
•As you leave the First Term Room, point out the small inset waterfall along the path to the Second Term Room
…The small waterfall is a miniature version of the larger waterfall in the Second Term Room
…One interpretation of this pair of waterfalls is that they symbolize FDR’s economic policy concept of "priming the pump" — by creating government programs like the Alphabet Agencies that would provide government-funded jobs for a few people, those government employees would create a demand for new goods and services which would, in turn, create new private sector jobs for others
•The major theme of FDR’s second term was economic recovery
•As you enter the first section of the Second Term Room, you see three sculptures by George Segal:
…"The Rural Couple" — symbolizing the many farm families who lost money, farms, and hope when the markets for their goods failed
…"The Breadline" — symbolizing the many urban families who were forced to turn to government and church-affiliated handouts to maintain their families while the main breadwinner sought work
…"The Fireside Chat" — a man listening to the broadcast of a fireside chat — informal talks to the nation on the state of affairs in the country and in Washington; FDR made 33 such broadcasts to the nation during his presidency
•As you pass by the statues and enter the second section of the Second Term Room, you will see a large waterfall symbolizing the return of the American economy under the New Deal programs; compared to the waterfall in the First Term Room, we see the water is channelled and less chaotic… the energy of the country is being focused into productive recovery efforts
•Also in this room is a sculpture group by Robert Graham entitled "Social Programs"
…The columns feature bas-relief depictions of the New Deal social programs
…They are fully accessible to the visually-impaired
…After they were created, the columns were rolled out to make the impressions that form the wall behind the columns, with the negative images creating five sets of positive bas-reliefs
…The "Social Programs" piece has an internal symbolism; just as the negative impressions on the column produce positive images on the wall, so did the negative experience of the Great Depression produce positive results for the country in the continuing legacy of the New Deal social programs
THE THIRD TERM ROOM
The Third Term Room represents FDR’s third term, 1941-1945, which included the United States’s entry into World War II.
The small waterfall that precedes the larger waterfall in the Third Term Room. FDR resisted entering World War II, which began in Europe in 1939. As news of the horrific activities of the Nazi Regime began to filter back to the United States, FDR met with British authorities and agreed to provide arms to support the Allies’s war efforts. The smaller waterfall symbolizes this limited entry into the war effort and is echoed in the quotation along the wall: "We must become the Great Arsenal of Democracy."
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Congress declared war on Japan. As Japan’s allies in the Axis Powers declared war on the United States, Congress declared war on Germany and Italy also.
•The statement "I Hate War" was taken from a speech made in 1936 in Chautauqua, New York. (It appears three times in this room: on the right-hand wall as you enter the room, carved into one of the blocks to the left of the entry, and carved into one of the blocks directly in front of the right-hand wall.)
•This waterfall and the blocks of granite symbolize the destruction of war. The water shooting out from the waterfall is meant to evoke the image of broken water mains in a bombed building.
•The statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was created by Neil Estern. It is ten feet tall and made of bronze.
•The president is depicted sitting in a chair of the type FDR used at his estate Hyde Park. If you look carefully, you will see it does have small wheels attached to each leg, which enabled the president to move around without assistance.
•Seated to the left of the President is his Scottish terrier Fala. Fala was a constant companion of the President and became famous in his own right: he had a comic strip named after him, he led a campaign to raise money through the sale of War Bonds, and he was often invited to meet visitors at the White House and to perform tricks for them. The statue of Fala was also sculpted by Neil Estern.
•The quotation behind the statues which beings "They (who) seek to establish systems of government…" was taken from a 1941 speech to the White House Correspondents’ Association.
•The quotation to the left of the statues which begins "We have faith that future generations will know…" was taken from a 1943 speech to the White House Correspondents’ Association.
THE FOURTH TERM ROOM
•As you leave the Third Term Room, you encounter a huge wall with the statement "More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all war." This statement was taken from a speech FDR had planned to give on Jefferson Day (April 13, 1945). He died the day before he was scheduled to give the speech.
•Beyond the wall is a ramp down to a still pool of water with a bronze bas-relief.
•The bas-relief is entitled "The Funeral Cortege" by Leonard Baskin. The caisson is being followed by a variety of mourners from all walks of life, those who were assisted by the President and his programs during his twelve years in office.
•As you continue down the ramp, you will get a view of the Washington Monument. This view is meant to reconnect the visitor with the historic beginnings of the country.
•As you turn the corner entering the open plaza of the Fourth Term Room, you will find a statue of the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, by Neil Estern
•Eleanor was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt and decided early in life to be a champion of those who face discrimination, poverty, and hardship
•Eleanor Roosevelt broke White House tradition when she became more than just the President’s hostess as First Lady.
•She travelled all over the United States, meeting with people from all walks of life and reporting back to the President on real conditions in the country
•It is believed that many of the progressive social programs that became part of FDR’s New Deal were originally championed by Eleanor
•In a famous incident, she travelled to Tuskegee, Alabama, to meet the first group of African-Americans trained as escort pilots (known as the "Tuskeegee Airmen") and drew attention to their competence and ability when she insisted on flying with one of the program’s graduates
•One of FDR’s conditions for agreeing to an end of World War II was the creation of the United Nations. After FDR’s death in 1945, Eleanor was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations and served as the chairperson of the United Nations Commitee on Human Rights
•Eleanor Roosevelt died in 1962.
The Plaza and Amphitheater
•The Fourth Room waterfall symbolizes the legacy of FDR and the shape of the new nation
•The water seems to burst forth from the rocks, giving the sense of the new energy and productivity that emerged from the United States in the post-war years
•Engraved on the walls are the last written words of FDR, originally written by hand as correction to his planned Jefferson Day speech: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith." The words echo the sentiments of FDR’s famous 1933 statement: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
•Engraved on the risers of the low steps of the amphitheater is a timeline of the important events of FDR’s life.
•The final quotation in the FDR Memorial was drawn from his 1941 State of the Union address: "Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear."
•The pathway leading down to the Tidal Basin provides a good view of the Washington Monument and one of the best public views in the city of the Jefferson Memorial. The path continues around the Tidal Basin, through the Cherry Blossom Trees and leads to the Jefferson Memorial.
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