Lecture Date: February 15, 2024
The Irene and Curry Roberts Lecture
This revealing biography shows how Franklin Delano Roosevelt found his true self in his searing struggle with polio—emerging with a strength and wisdom he would use to inspire the world. Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemed to be a political “natural.” Yet for all his gifts, the young Roosevelt lacked depth, empathy, and an ability to think strategically. Those qualities, essential to his success as president, were skills he acquired during his seven-year journey through illness, recovery and rehabilitation. Becoming FDR traces the riveting story of the struggle that forged Roosevelt’s character and political ascent. Soon after contracting polio in 1921, the former failed vice-presidential candidate was left paralyzed from the waist down. He spent much of the next decade trying to rehabilitate his body and adapt to the stark new reality of his life. By the time he reemerged on the national stage in 1928 as the Democratic candidate for governor of New York, his character and his abilities had been transformed. He had become compassionate and shrewd by necessity, tailoring his speeches to inspire listeners and to reach them through a new medium—radio. Suffering cemented his bond with those he once famously called “the forgotten man.” Crucially, he had discovered how to find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation—a skill that he employed to motivate Americans through the Great Depression and World War II. The polio years were transformative, too, for the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor, and for Eleanor herself, who became her husband’s surrogate at public events, and who grew to become a political and humanitarian force in her own right. Becoming FDR shows how adversity can lead to greatness, and to the power to remake the world.
Speaker: Jonathan Darman
Jonathan Darman is a journalist and historian who writes about American politics and the presidency. He is the author of BECOMING FDR: The Personal Crisis that Made a President and LANDSLIDE
: Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America
. As a former national political correspondent for Newsweek, Jonathan covered the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Mitt Romney and wrote extensively about other major figures in national politics and media. Jonathan has also appeared frequently as a commentator on politics and presidential history on broadcast television, cable news and radio. Jonathan is a graduate of Harvard College where he studied American history and literature. He currently resides in Brooklyn.