Monday, February 21, 2011

Springwood, Hyde Park, NY

The following was written right after President Barack Hussein Obama had been nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a month in office:

In these days of hyper-electioneering, it is perhaps fitting for those of a particular ideological persuasion to visit Springwood, the Mecca of their political inspiration and, at the same time, pay homage to the man who did much to change the wordage and thrust of our civic dialogue while fighting hard to preserve America’s global prominence.

The place is Hyde Park, NY, where the ancestral home and final resting place of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd American President, is located. After his death in 1945, his wife, Eleanor, and her children donated the site to the National Park Service.

Every time I’ve visited there, Springwood Mansion was in the process of undergoing some kind of renovation, but the views of the Hudson Valley from the back of the house remain unchanged and spectacular.

The compound now includes the Henry Wallace Visitor’s Center, complete with souvenir and coffee shops. Just outside, there is a sculpture depicting Eleanor and Franklin sitting on a bench that leaves room for anyone so inclined to sit beside them. There is a rose garden, as well as a dramatic modern sculpture constructed from bits and pieces of the Berlin Wall by the granddaughter of Winston Churchill. The caption reads, “FREEDOM FROM FEAR”. The reference to President Roosevelt famous quotation about fear is unavoidable. In addition, the Park contains FDR’s Presidential Library and Museum.

Admittance to the grounds is free. Guided tours of Springwood Mansion, Top Cottage (where visiting dignitaries were routinely entertained), the Library and Museum, Eleanor’s home and the nearby Vanderbilt estate, however, can add up to a tidy sum.

Hyde Park seems a popular destination for the elderly - the blue-haired ladies and their now somewhat grizzled, mustachioed men – who, their memories of the period failing, still seek the caress of the echo of that tumultuous period in U. S. history. The people elected Franklin Roosevelt - a man of impeccable loyalties who would steer the great American Ship of State with a steady hand over the dangerous shoals of global dysfunction and treachery (though his own body was already broken and in steep decline) – to no less than four consecutive terms. His reassuring words (fireside chats) to the nation gave it the strength to confront and defeat the evil that had come into the world. From then on, the Jewish vote would overwhelmingly favor the Democrats.

The young too come – not in (tour) bus-size groups, but one by one; or in twos at the most. They come, but not for the same reasons. Thoughtful, almost obeisant in demeanor, they are seeking to forge some tangible connection to their innate progressive leanings. Surely, their hope is that Barack Obama will take up the mantle of Roosevelt (and others). He’s young enough, they say. He too promises to take the country to a new - a better - place; to right the wreckage Republican policies have wrought. I noted the idealism shining in their eyes. It was far brighter than the light of nostalgia I had seen among the old.

Here’s to hoping that the new American President will succeed in transcending ego and place our nation’s interests first. May blind ideology not cloud his reason and poison the well of good common sense. May his term in office remain untainted by corruption. And finally, may a clear vision guide his pronouncements and legislative decisions and thus inspire our population to support his personal sacrifice.

Peter Koelliker –

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