I have always been a fan of both Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Franklin had a force of will that allowed him to overcome challenges that would have thwarted most people. In addition, he pulled a tired country up out of the depression with his public works programs and chose to enter WWII when much of America called for isolationism.
Touring the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park, I learned that at the end of a long day, Franklin would wheel himself to a large dumbwaiter and haul himself up, arm over arm, using the rope of the dumbwaiter, to reach the second floor and his bedroom. The Roosevelts could certainly afford an elevator and the house had electricity but Franklin chose the harder route, relying on his own strength.
Eleanor had a different kind of strength. A visit to Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill cottage shed new light on this hero of mine. A shy youth, by all accounts, Eleanor grew into a fierce advocate for the less fortunate and a tireless voice for justice.
Val-Kill is the place Eleanor returned after Franklin Roosevelt died. The cottage was a favorite with visiting friends, children and especially grandchildren. It is full of family photos, wood paneled rooms and mismatched stuffed furniture. At Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt feels tangible, warm and inviting. The cottage reminds me of my grandparent’s house.
However, Eleanor did not stop working when FDR died. Her daily syndicated column, My Day, was read by thousands. In fact, she wrote over 8,000 total pieces for her column. She represented the United States at the U.N. and chaired the Drafting Committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She traipsed around the globe several times over.
Eleanor Roosevelt was raised amid a life of privilege. But, she chose to spend her time traveling alone to distant places to speak for the voiceless. The picture above says it all — Eleanor Roosevelt was tireless. Today, her example of service offers a light we should all follow.