This past summer when I was at Hyde Park I had a conversation with one of the rangers in which we discussed that 2017 was the 135th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth. He was born there at Springwood on 30 January 1882. I usually visit Hyde Park every summer and have spoken to different rangers in recent years about the dwindling number of visitors who have that emotional, visceral attachment to FDR when visiting the site. It is no wonder, with so many Americans having grown up hearing the four-term president on the radio regularly throughout the Depression and Second World War. Nowadays there are still a few such on the pilgrimage, but for the most part that cohort has aged out. I find this photograph intriguing on a number of levels. The image is of Sergeant George A. Kaufman of the 9th Army and was taken in Germany on 9 March 1945. The public did not know it at the time, but Roosevelt was failing quickly by this time. He would die in Warm Springs just over a month later.
Roosevelt’s life and times spanned much of the American moment, an era that sadly might be winding down before our eyes seven decades after his passing. Roosevelt attended Harvard at the turn of the century, served as Wilson’s Assistant Navy Secretary during the Great War, governed New York State in the late 1920s and 1930s, and was in the White House the last dozen years of his life. It is easy to forget that he was only sixty-three when he died. I see on the Hyde Park/NPS website that they are having a program today at 3:00 pm in the rose garden behind the library. The Hudson Valley is cold this time of year, but it looks like the weather will cooperate. I am curious to see if there is more to come over the course of the year.