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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Opening of the FDR Papers at the FDR Library

March 15, 1950


Recording of the opening of the FDR papers at FDR Library in Hyde Park.  ER gives a short statement.

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[Unknown announcer:]

Today in Hyde Park, in the Dutch Colonial Library building, which the former president himself helped to design, the papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt were open for the public. Never before have the private papers of an American president been made available to the people so soon after his death. This huge mine of information will now be available for scholars and students of what is unquestionably one of the most momentous periods of American history. The ceremonies were opened by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the president, on the forty-fifth anniversary of their marriage. She is introduced by Dr. Wayne C. Grover, archivist of the United States. And now by means of recording, CBS takes you to Hyde Park.

[Wayne C. Grover:]

Mrs. Roosevelt, our other distinguished guests and friends here today, it's a pleasure to welcome you on the occasion of the opening of most of the papers of Franklin Dela-Delano Roosevelt for research. Mrs. Roosevelt, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to make this token presentation of the papers of President Roosevelt being opened today.


Thank you very much. And I am very happy as I know he would have been to know that these papers are going to be in great part now ready for students of this period [unknown speaker: Thank you Mrs. Roosevelt] to examine. And first thing I want to do is to thank Miss Tully and Judge Rosenman, for the work they have done in carrying out my husband's wishes. And then to thank the archivist and the staff here, Mr. Kern and his staff, and everybody who has done so much to make it possible for us to have uh as soon as this the opportunity of opening these papers to the public. Now I would like to say particularly to all of you here that the Library with its exhibitions means a great deal, I think, to the general public. There are things to be seen here which attract young people and older people, and I think it has truly been um a place where great educational value has come from the exhibition of collections and of articles that uh pertain to my husband's interests. And in closing, I want to again tell you how grateful I am to all of you for coming today, and how much I welcome you here, and how much I hope that your interest will always continue. Thank you.

[Wayne C. Grover:]

Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt. Our uh next speaker is the new chief of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and the National Archives. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce to you the administrator of general services, the Honorable Jess Larson.

[Jess Larson:]

Mrs. Roosevelt, [Jess Larson clears throat] Dr. Grover, ladies and gentlemen, when the General Services Administration was created last July in order to unify certain internal operations of the federal government, the National Archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library were made a part of that administration. Prior to that, and in the joint resolution establishing this library, Congress pledged the faith of the United States toward its maintenance, including the preservation and care of historical materials. This Library has been, and will continue to be, administered as a national trust. Its materials open to all for study and research on an equal basis.


I have the honor of bringing to you a message from President Truman, which I will read: "On next Friday, a vast majority of the Franklin D. Roosevelt papers will be made available to the American public. President Roosevelt himself frequently voiced the hope that he would be here to help arrange and interpret his papers. But we are carrying out his wishes and these pap-that these papers be open for free examination consistent with principles of private confidence and national security. The opening of the Roosevelt collection at this time is a striking indication of our faith in the future. Our form of government does not rest on the shifting sands of communist deceit, half-truths, and propagandist deception. A democracy is based on the firm foundation of the convictions of a free people. By opening this collection, we show our calm and reasoned faith that the free world of the future will survive."

[Wayne C. Grover:]

Thank you, Mr. Larson, for your own message and for bringing us that fine message from President Truman. We are honored today to have with us a man who has been preeminent in the intellectual world for longer than some of us here have graced this troubled planet, Dr. Waldo Gifford Leland. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce Dr. Leland.

[Dr. Waldo Gifford Leland:]

Mrs. Roosevelt, Mr. Grover, Mr. Larson, and friends of the Roosevelt Library, I propose to tell you as briefly as possible the story of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. This occasion marks the realization of a cherished hope, and although he whose hope it was is not now here to share our satisfaction, we know that his spirit joins with us and leads us in these simple exercises. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the product of a manner of American life which is exemplified by these surroundings. Here he grew up on the banks of this great river, amid these scenes which have exercised a gracious and generous influence on our manners and our hearts. Here he returned during his presidential years for brief moments of refreshment and inspiration, to seek renewal of physical and spiritual strength. Here in this library, at work upon his papers, he hoped to spend the after years of his life of public service.


The story of the planning and building of this library covers a period of some thirty months. On December 10th, 1938, to a small luncheon group in the White House, the president announced his long-meditated plan to present to the nation all the papers, records, books, pamphlets, and objects of every sort which he had accumulated as a public man during a quarter of a century. He proposed that these collections, suitably housed on land donated from his Hyde Park estate, should be accepted by the government as a gift and should be administered by the National Archives as research materials open to the public. The approval of the plan by scholars was general, and for the most part enthusiastic. And a week later it was well on its way to being realized. The undertaking was carried out with the assistance of a small executive committee, a larger national advisory committee, and a still larger committee on Ways and Means of which last Mr. Wyatt Walker was the directing force. It is-it was my privilege to serve as chairman of the executive committee.


Six weeks later in February of 1939, at a dinner in Washington attended by the president and the members of the three committees, the campaign to raise funds was launched. The speakers dwelt on the importance and significance of the library and its collections. The president told a modest understatement of his collections. He recalled that when a student at Harvard, he had been librarian of the Hasty Pudding club, and had sought advice from a venerable book dealer on Cornhill. "One of the first things that old man Chase said to me," the president recounted, "was never destroy anything. Well that has been sown in my teeth by all the members of my family almost every week that has passed since that time. [Audience laughs] I have destroyed practically nothing. As a result, we have a mine for which future historians will curse me as well as praise me. [Audience laughs] It is a mine which will need to have the [unknown] sifted from the gold. I would like to do it, but the historians tell me I am not capable of doing it [audience laughs]. It is a very conglomerate, hit-or-miss, all-over-the-place collection on every man, animal, subject, or material. But after all, I believe it is going to form an interesting record of this particular quarter of a century to which we belong." Some of the papers which the president hoped might be added have already been deposited, notably those of Henry Morgenthau Jr., Harry Hopkins, and John Wiener. But there is also many more, and we may contently hope, with Mrs. Roosevelt, that the president's invitation will be widely accepted.


The campaign for funds, which the Washington dinner inaugurated, was immediately undertaken by Frank Walker, treasurer of the corporation. Mr. Walker met with many groups and individuals. In the end the contributions, mostly in modest amounts, were made by twenty-eight thousand persons. Now the total sum thus raised by the corporation, was ample for the construction and equipment of this building. The nation now possesses an institution of unique and incomparable character for the understanding of one of the most crucial periods in its history. The far-reaching significance of these collections has been clearly recognized, as evidenced by the daily talks of Professor Morrison and President Ford of February 4th, 1939. A few months later on the occasion of laying the cornerstone, Archibald MacLeish with the inside of the point said, "The records which will be collected here are the records of an era and a time. They are the records of a period in which the strong and restless life of the American people refused to accept the world as it had been and demanded that the world became the world their longing could imagine. They are the records of the speaking and acting of a man who more than any other man has been the actor and the speaker of this time, the man who demanded for his generation what his generation had the courage to demand. As such they have the unity which history remembers and even living men can see."


And on the same occasion the president himself said, "It has been my personal hope that this library, and the use of it by scholars and visitors, will come to be an integral part of a country scene which the hand of man has not greatly changed since the days of the Indians who dealt-who dwelt here three hundred years ago. This is a peaceful countryside and it seems appropriate that in this time of strife we should dedicate this library to the spirit of peace, peace for the United States and soon we hope, peace for the world." He added, "I personally attach less importance to the documents of those who have occupied high public and private office than I do to the spontaneous letters which have come from men, from women, and from children in every part of the United States telling me their conditions and problems and giving me their own opinions. Many will use these documents. Some will seek only to support one or the other side of controversies, to attack or to defend, to magnify or to belittle. And such users will too often be content to lift passages from their context and to distort their meaning. But the use of these collections to add valued and enduring knowledge will be the work of those who, competent in the patient and careful methods of research, have one purpose only: to know the truth.


And so in conclusion, I ask you to listen to the words of President Roosevelt spoken when this library was dedicated on the thirtieth of June 1941. This is what he said: "It seems to me that the dedication of a Library is an act of faith, to bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future. A nation must believe in three things: it must believe in the past; it must believe in the future; it must above all believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgement in creating their own future. We hope that millions of our citizens from every part of the land will be glad if what we do today makes available to future Americans the story of what we have lived and what we are living today and what we will continue to live during the rest of our lives."

[Wayne C. Grover:]

Thank you Dr. Leland. Uh ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our brief exercises this afternoon. Thank you.

[Unknown announcer:]

CBS is brought to you by transcription the ceremonies of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park in connection with the opening to the public of the papers of the late President Roosevelt. This program has been a presentation of the CBS News and Special Events department produced by Tony Crayber. This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.


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About this document

Opening of the FDR Papers at the FDR Library

March 15, 1950


Eleanor Roosevelt

Project Editors
  • National Endowment for the Humanities

Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Transcript Editors

Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library