At Long Last He Can Rest
TRIBUTE TO THE LATE PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
By SAMUEL D. JACKSON, Former Senator from Indiana
Broadcast from Westinghouse Radio Station WOWO, Fort Wayne, Ind., April 12, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 422-423.
LADIES and gentlemen, and my fellow countrymen, the President is dead. At long last he can rest. Rest from his labors, rest from his ambitions for his people, rest from the lance of his enemies. Rest from all that burden which he carried. For 12 long years with a broken body he has taken upon himself the cares of the people of the United States of America, and much of the trials and tribulations of a weary hell-ravaged war-torn world. Let those who doubt democracy learn a lesson today.
Within a few minutes after the death of the President of a hundred and thirty million people, with 12,000,000 men and women under arms, a new one takes his place. The war will proceed to victory, and peace will follow the footsteps of victory. The world will be well again.
The President is dead. He brought to political life in the United States of America a handicap little-mentioned while he was active in politics. In the area of political campaigns those who disagreed with him most violently were kind about that.
Last year was an election year, and during that year the people of this country, of all political persuasion, had by and large three main hopes: The hope of an early conclusion of the war; the hope of an abiding and enduring Christian peace; the hope for the restoration of the United States after the war. They concluded that the answer to all three of these hopes was the great world leader who was called home today. Today the angels touched down his eyelids forever; he belongs to history.
The Great Democrat
I remember my first impression of President Roosevelt was when he was Democratic candidate for Vice President, with
Governor Cox, of Ohio, twining for the Presidency. I saw him in the great parade at the fair grounds in the county seat outside Dayton, Ohio, On the occasion when Governor Cox was notified of his nomination for the Presidency, I saw this young man walking in the parade starting in before the grandstand about the three-quarter-mile post, thin and straight and strong, well, and brisk. No man could have dreamed his future. At a glance you could see that he was a scion of some distinguished and wealthy family. He was, indeed, something of an aristocrat. He was the aristocrat who turned to be the great Democrat, or rather he was the great Democrat.
You know, those of you who are interested in the mystic things of this world, I am sure, had your attention arrested as I did when I first read of a tiny incident which may mean nothing. When he was a young man at the age of about 38 he met his affliction. But prior to that time in his early college years, he formed an attachment for a chap who was a sculptor, and the young man began to carve out of ebony a figure about 2 feet in height, a figure of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And he worked on it, while they were together, and a year would go by and he would work on it again, and finally the crude black piece took form and shape. That giant head took expression, and from its photograph now, it appears to have the same facial expression the President wore 'til the closing days of his life. There is the great broad torso, there is the deep chest, the great arms, the extraordinarily large hands. Now, when the worker got down to about his lap it was to be a sitting figure—for some mysterious and unexplainable reason, though the subject was in full health, something attracted the attention of the sculptor or something intervened. No one seems to know what, and there the working of the rough piece stopped. And so nothing was thought of it, of course, at the time, but it sat upon his mother's mantel in his mother's home after his affliction and after he became a President of the United States, it was indeed a tie to the infinite to see how the incident presaged the man's great affliction.
Why They Loved Him
I saw him one time in 1936 when he was on his way to the Dust Bowl to confer with Governor Landon, his then opponent, with reference with what should be done with the windstorms of the West. On his way to Iowa he stopped at Garrett, Ind., and I was invited to go to the train and to meet with him and visit with him. I went with a quartet of men; we went into the station, learned the train was soon to arrive. There was a crowd of a couple of hundred persons waiting for the train to come in the railroad station. We looked way down toward the east and saw the black dot which we knew was the President's Special. It puffed and poured its smoke out, and threw itself down upon us. But, as it came close to the crowd, the engineer slowed down to just so it moved and that's all. It came into the midst of that crowd and stopped and Secret Service men dropped from all the steps of those fine and splendid coaches and if you've never seen a Presidential Special you should see one. It s a great bar of steel, bearing a precious cargo. Made up of a thousand moving, acting parts. The cordon of police closed in about the steps to guard that precious passenger and finally someone from the steps of the last Pullman car, motioned to us to come on and I was the last of the four or five of us who went in. We went down the side aisle of that car to the end which was furnished as a living room and I heard the voice of the President, and I knew, of course, that I would soon be in his presence, for it was the first time I would meet him for conversation. There he was, sitting in an overstuffed chair, wearing a seersucker suit. He stopped to visit with me and we had time to talk. He asked about the crops, the weather, and about Indiana, and he talked about things, as if he wanted to know things and about situations. I looked at that great head again with those blue eyes. I looked at that big body. I looked down at the almost empty trousers of that seersucker suit, and saw the cruel steel braces and when I heard that matchless voice and saw the sympathy which he used in inquiring about the interests of his people in this locality, I knew then how it was that so many people loved him. And they said: 'Mr. President, if you're going to speak to this crowd you'll have to go out on the back platform now and you men who are visiting, if you'll go on the outside you can hear him better.'
The arrangements were made and in the twinkling of an eye we were standing out on the railroad track looking up at the back platform; and the President was talking. I heard him speak for the things for which he aspired. Then it was I knew why so many men hated him. Then all too soon the radio apparatus was disconnected and the train started almost imperceptibly to move away and the last I saw was the President waving his hand at us and smiling with that smile which won him both ridicule and tears. And as that B. & O. train sank down to another dot in the west I somehow had a feeling that there was one of God's own chosen men no matter what any man might think of his political career or policies.