Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FDR, Jimmy Stewart and other things I shouldn't know about...

Americans will go to the polls this November to select a new president, provided the Democratic primaries have ended by then. It feels like an important election, full of real problems and tough challenges.

Which is why "FDR," PBS's 4-part documentary from '94 on Franklin Roosevelt, which concluded last night, seems so timely. We're nowhere near a depression, but this year's electoral burden seems heavy. Thus it was in 1932, when voters took a chance and elected a popular governor from New York to fight its economic woes.

Roosevelt's story is nothing short of inspiring, regardless of one's political affiliation, especially his courageous struggle with polio. The New Deal gave the nation a much needed jolt of confidence, even if it did take the Second World War to pull us out of the Depression.

FDR wasn't without fault. He tried to pack the Supreme Court. He was estranged from his wife. He ran for an unprecedented fourth term in 1944, knowing deep inside that he was a dying man; he didn't even tell Truman about the atomic bomb.

But he didn't shirk, to borrow his favorite phrase, his rendezvous with destiny. If ever America elected the right leader in the right place at the right time, it was the patrician from Hyde Park.

Will such a president be elected this fall? Stay tuned...

Today would have been Jimmy Stewart's 100th birthday. That stuttering, "aw shucks" actor was a true American hero, World War II pilot, the kind of guy any self-respecting man would do well to emulate.

The funniest thing I ever heard about him came from, of all people, my mom, who once remarked, "That guy always played weirdos."

Well, I thought about it, and she's partially right. It was an unfair comment, though, because I'm almost certain I was watching "Harvey" at the time she said it...

If I make it home tonight at a decent hour, I think I'll flip on the DVD player and watch Stewart and Duke Wayne tame the town of Shinbone in John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." That movie is great on so many levels, but most especially for this immortal line:

This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Happy birthday, James Stewart, wherever you are.

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