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Tag: Franklin D. Roosevelt

State Dinners at the White House

Today’s post comes from the National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries.

King David Kalakaua of Hawaii was the first head of state to be honored with a White House state dinner on December 12, 1874, by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. In the years that have followed, state dinners have come to signify the utmost respect for visiting heads of state. Each state dinner is a historic event with the power to cement friendships with allies and foster cooperation.

8_GRF_State-Dinner-invitation-1976

Invitation to the state dinner for President Giscard d’Estaing of France, May17, 1976.

Months of meticulous planning go into a state dinner. The guest of honor’s country, culture, and favored preferences are thoroughly researched. The First Lady often chooses the décor and entertainment to highlight a certain aspect of American culture. Together, these considerations are translated into invitations, menus, guest lists, and entertainment. The results can be a form of diplomatic dialogue between the host and guest cultures.

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford chose “light” as the theme for the state dinner honoring French President Giscard d’Estaing. The theme was inspired by France’s Bicentennial gift to the United States, a sound and light show staged at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Centerpieces were designed for each table using early American lighting items loaned from the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. These included a … [ Read all ]

Amending the Constitution: 100 Days to 200 Years

After his victory in the 1904 election, President Theodore Roosevelt promised that although his first term had lasted only three years (beginning after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901), he would adhere to the two-term precedent established by George Washington. Yet by 1912, convinced that only his progressive leadership would save the Repbulican party, Roosevelt announced his candidacy. Roosevelt contended that he had only promised to refuse a third consecutive term. Berryman shows Roosevelt attempting to dodge the anti-third term principle as he crouches before Washington's ghost. Not until 1951, after Franklin Roosevelt's four terms in office, did Congress enact the XXII Amendment to the Constitution, officially limiting Presidents to two terms (NAtional Archives Identifier 306175)

After his victory in the 1904 election, President Theodore Roosevelt promised that although his first term had lasted only three years (beginning after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901), he would adhere to the two-term precedent established by George Washington. Yet by 1912, Roosevelt announced his candidacy. Not until 1951, after Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms in office, was the 22nd Amendment ratified, officially limiting Presidents to two terms (National Archives Identifier 306175)

The Constitution hasn’t changed much since it was adopted in 1787.

However, it has been tweaked by 27 amendments—some were ratified in a few months, another took more than two centuries.

The ink on the Constitution had barely dried in 1787 when people discovered what it did not say. It did not spell out adequately, they argued, the individual rights that citizens of the United States had under the Constitution.

So James Madison, the “father of the Constitution” and a member of the House of Representatives from Virginia, went to work.

The result: 12 amendments. They were approved by Congress in late 1789 and sent to the 13 states for ratification, which, then as now under the Constitution, required three-quarters of the state legislatures or constitutional conventions.

Twelve? Yes, but only ten (originally numbers three through 12), known to us all today as the Bill of Rights, were approved. It took … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, was the first Presidential library built in the United States. President Roosevelt led its conception and building, and he is the only President to have used his library while in office.

FDR decided to build the library in order to preserve the documents he had written and collected throughout his life. Before Roosevelt, Presidential papers were considered the property of the President. The documents were taken from the White House by the President when he left office and were later sold, scattered, or kept privately within families. Some Presidential records eventually landed in the Library of Congress, but not many, to the frustration of historians. The Roosevelt Library and all succeeding Presidential Libraries preserve Presidential papers for the public and educate the public about the past. The public is welcome to use the research rooms at all 13 Presidential Libraries.

But the library doesn’t only hold President Roosevelt’s official papers.

While the library undergoes a major renovation to bring its infrastructure up to the Archives’ preservation standards, the museum is presenting the largest photography exhibit ever assembled on the lives of the Roosevelts. “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives” includes nearly 1,000 images of their childhoods, family life, and political … [ Read all ]

Crafting a Call to Arms: FDR’s Day of Infamy Speech

In the early afternoon of December 7, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt was just finishing lunch in his oval study on the second floor of the White House, preparing to work on his stamp album.

The phone rang, and he was informed that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, shortly before 1 p.m. Washington time, 8 a.m. Hawaii time.

“It was just the kind of unexpected thing the Japanese would do. At the very time they were discussing peace in the Pacific, they were plotting to overthrow it,” he remarked to his assistant.

Roosevelt delivers the "Day of Infamy" speech to a joint session of Congress on December 8, 1941. To the right, in uniform, is Roosevelt's son James, who escorted his father to the Capitol. Seated in the back are Vice President Henry Wallace and Speaker Sam Rayburn.

For the rest of that afternoon, Roosevelt and his advisers were busy at the White House receiving fragmentary reports about the damage to U.S. installations, ships, and planes in Hawaii.

Security was increased around the White House, and plans were under way for a bomb shelter for the President underneath the nearby Treasury Department building. Across the nation, news of the attack spread by radio and word of mouth, and Americans began thinking about what life in a nation at war was going to be like.… [ Read all ]

Eleanor Roosevelt, what’s in your wallet?

The exterior of Eleanor's wallet, which had over 25 cards and notes inside.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884. She was the niece of former President Theodore Roosevelt, and later became the wife of future President Franklin D. Roosevelt (her fifth cousin).

She is known for her role as First Lady during the Great Depression and World War II. She was the first woman in that role to hold a press conference, and she was an advocate for minorities, the disadvantaged, and the disabled.

In her post–White House life, she served as chair of the Human Rights Commission for the United Nations General Assembly and as first chairperson of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

But to get a different sense of Mrs. Roosevelt’s many causes, interests, and associations, we can look inside her wallet.

Among the many cards and bits of paper, she had a license from the state of New York to carry a pistol, an expired card to the Newspaper Guild’s Press Club in New York City, a Diner’s Club Credit Card, a health insurance card, a “Bell System Credit Card” with instructions on how to make a collect call, a St. Christopher card for the patron saint of travel, and an air travel card.

The contents of her wallet—cards, photographs, bits of poems—at the time of her death in 1962 are now … [ Read all ]