By Bruce B. Brugmann (with the full text of FDR’s address)
Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts, broadcast last week by KQED, was a stunning achievement and the best work Burns has done. It previewed key elements of the New Deal and provided historic context and relevance for the progressive politics of San Francisco and California. But it didn’t mention a key local angle, FDR’s famous speech to the Commonwealth Club on Sept. 21, 1932, in the heat of his winning campaign for president.
I got on to the speech when Joseph J. Ellis, the noted historian, spoke to the club last year on his new book, “Revolutionary Summer, The birth of American independence.” In his introduction, Ellis said that “in my view the most important political speech in the 20th century was delivered here by Franklin Roosevelt.”
The speech was written by Adolph Berle, a member of Roosevelt’s “brain trust,” and drew heavily on earlier progressive ideas, particularly those of John Dewey, a leading progressive scholar who taught mainly at Columbia University in New York. His speech is in the Commonwealth Club collection “Each a Mighty Voice,” a beautiful hardcover book published by Heyday. Here is his speech. b3
(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruce B. Brugmann, editor at large of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He was the editor and with his wife Jean Dibble the co-founder and co-publsher of the Guardian, 1966-2012.)