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Biographer Talks Franklin D. Roosevelt's Successes, Limitations

Filson Historical Society

Much has been written on the life and presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but biographer Robert Dallek's book, "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life" is being called one of the most authoritative biographies of FDR in many years.

Dallek highlights the positives and negatives of the man who led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II. I spoke with him about FDR and about his book. You can listen to our conversation in the player above.

Dallek on Roosevelt's approach to dealing with the Great Depression:

"The New Deal was a kind of hodgepodge, he was making it up as he went along. There were certain parameters. He wanted to help people who were in a state of misery, unemployed. Remember, there was no unemployment insurance at the time. The banks were closing, people were losing their savings, it was a very sad moment in the country's history. So Roosevelt compared himself to a quarterback on the football team and said if 'I try one play and it doesn't work, I move on to another.'"

On Roosevelt and the rise of populism:

"He understood the populist mood in the country. And he captivated it with the use of the relatively new technology, of course, radio. And he would give these Fireside Chats which would be on Sunday nights. People would gather around their radios in their living room and the would think of him as 'pater familias,' as their cousin, their uncle, their dear friend who was vitally concerned about them."

Robert Dallek will speak Tuesday at the Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series from the Filson Historical Society at 6:30 p.m. at the Temple Congregation Adath on U.S. 42.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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