Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States from 1933-1945. He was the first and only president to be elected to a fourth term and died in office at age 63. In 1997 a memorial designed by Lawrence Haprin was unveiled in Washington DC on reclaimed land between the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River. It sits on seven and a half acres and is the largest presidential memorial on the National Mall.

I have been to this memorial several times. I like it a lot. It is a stroll through time and brings the man to life. The sculptures are all cast in bronze and are not fancy or shiny, the granite comes from South Dakota and each room has nature in it. There are waterfalls, pools with rocks, and fountains. His quotes are carved into the granite walls throughout the memorial and I am struck each time I go by how relevant his quotes from seventy years ago are to the present. We have not learned much.

There are five outdoor “rooms” each separated by walls. The first is the Prologue Room with a sculpture of FDR sitting in his wheelchair. This statue was not part of the original design. It was added in 2001 after certain people fought to depict him as somebody with a physical disability. The remaining rooms are for each of his terms in office.


Each room represents an important aspect of the man and the times. Room One shows his first inauguration and the introduction of the New Deal.

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a New Deal for the American People.” 
July 2, 1932

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice … the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” 
October 2, 1932


In Room Two a sculpture by George Segal has men standing in bread lines. Across the way in an alcove is a man listening to a fireside chat.

“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” 
January 20, 1937

“Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.” January 24, 1935


Room Three concentrates on World War II. FDR launched the war effort in 1941 and sent more than 16 million U.S. troops to war.

“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded … I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed … I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” August 14, 1936

“We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” February 12, 1943

“Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another world war will remain as a constant threat to mankind.” 
February 12, 1943

“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation … it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.” 
March 1, 1945

The last Room is about his legacy. There is a mural showing his funeral procession and a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt honoring her as First Lady and her work with the United Nations. Roosevelt was a man of “firsts”. He was the first President to use the radio, to fly in a plane, to appoint a woman to this Cabinet, to appoint a Press Secretary and to leave the country in time of war.

“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.” 
January 9, 1940

“Freedom of speech … Freedom of worship … Freedom from want … Freedom from fear.” 
January 6, 1941