The Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts
On one of bussing days, we went to see the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Through the readings and discussions, I have learned quite a bit about Roosevelt, much more than I knew before. The museum on the Roosevelt property did a great job of showing much of the information, painting a picture of a president who was loved by the American public and respected by our allies. He is portrayed as a man of strength in spite of a physical ailment associated with his contracting polio who helped pull America out of the Great Depression and guided her through most of the second World War.
The museum focuses on Roosevelt’s keen use of radio and his famous Fireside Chats as crucial to help build his support from the American public. It shows his camaraderie with Winston Churchill leading up to and through World War II. It also gave a fair amount of exposure to Eleanor Roosevelt, who continued to champion civil rights (even to the point of resigning from the Daughters of the American Revolution). While one can safely say that the museum focuses on the positive legacy of a popular president, it also did a great job of showing that not everyone was completely sold on FDR’s policies.
Continuing with the concept of teaching multiple perspectives, this would be a fun lesson: Have students evaluate much of the rhetoric on both sides of FDR. Some people saw him as an excellent president who saved them from utter financial destruction. Others saw him, as a man who would was a mystery, sphinxlike, who was going to slowly lead the nation into financial ruin or worse. They could complete some research about the effect Roosevelt had on the presidency, the Great Depression, and World War II. They could use the political cartoons, letters, and other primary sources to draw conclusions about who is giving the most accurate portrayal of who Roosevelt truly was for the nation.
After visiting Roosevelt’s home, we went to visit the “Country Home” of one of the Vanderbilt’s. I have to say that the Gilded Age is one area of American history that I really don’t know much about. The tour of the Vanderbilt house (though a little limited with information) has caused me to want to do a little more reading about the rise and fall of this financial empire.