Why Hillary Clinton Lost, and What to Do About It Now
Hillary Clinton during her concession speech. Photo: Courtesy Reuters
As a boy growing up in Wisconsin, I was blessed with a wonderful grandfather, who, after my parents divorced, was more like a father to me. Grandpa had risen through the ranks to become a labor union president, and was eventually tapped by the Department of State to help resolve conflicts around the world before they became entry points to communism. Needless to say, Grandpa was a very effective negotiator, but more than that, he was a keen observer, and a listener. He taught me that to close a deal it was hugely important to understand and empathize with your opposition, and that the way to get what you wanted was to acknowledge what the other side needed, and to find the middle ground to make that happen. He taught me another hugely valuable lesson, too: When a deal goes south, the very first thing you do is ask: what did I do wrong? No blaming the other side. What did you do to make this fail?
Since the election, I have heard from many of my friends and colleagues, and being a rather Democratic group (with a big D) they are upset, to say the least, with Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. And there is much to be upset about, if the hatred and bigotry and misogyny demonstrated during the campaign indeed transfer into the White House. But putting aside all that for a moment, I think we should follow my grandfather’s advice and ask “what did I (we) do wrong?” What did those who supported Hillary Clinton do wrong?
First off, there was an element of hubris on the Democratic side that was visible from the beginning if you looked for it. The fact is that Hillary Clinton — initially presented by the Party leadership as something akin to an uncrowned anointed —was in reality a badly damaged candidate who in a normal election against a normal Republican probably would have lost. But given the eventual 2016 Republican nominee, we simply presumed that no one in their right mind would vote for Donald Trump, and the very real problems of a Clinton candidacy could be smoothed over just like wrinkle lines with the right face cream.
Well guess what: this kind of wishful makeup make-believe was perfectly obvious to anyone who wasn’t wearing rose-colored Party-supplied glasses, and those who saw through the ruse resented this top-down condescending subterfuge, and they voted for Trump. The people who thought Hillary was inherently dishonest (which we chose to overlook) voted for Trump. The people who saw the Clintons as seeing themselves above the law (which we tried to explain away) voted for Trump. And the millennials, who felt that Hillary’s message was 20 years out-of-date and didn’t address issues that they cared about, like poverty (barely mentioned) climate (never mentioned) and a stratified wealth system stacked against them (which Wall-Street Clinton was part of) didn’t vote for Trump, but didn’t vote for Hillary either.
I think it’s telling that Clinton never once came to my home state of Wisconsin. It’s something of an oddball place, with a conservative (and poor) northern portion and a more affluent southern section, dominated by Madison (a university town) and Milwaukee, a former industrial center that has recently seen considerable unemployment and racial unrest. What unites Wisconsinites is that they are some of the friendliest, most welcoming people in America. They are good people, honest people, who work hard for their families, care about their kids, do the best they can to get by. Yes, politically they are diverse, with widely ranging views on everything from gun control to women’s reproductive rights, but by and large, they are the kind of people you wouldn’t mind as your neighbors. In the primaries, Madison was, as you might expect, a Bernie Sanders town. Milwaukee, with its large minority populations, was a Clinton kind of place. But the rest of the state was more or less up for grabs, with people still uneasy from the Great Recession and worried what their financial futures would hold.
So given this unease, what was Hillary’s message for Wisconsin? (From afar, that is.) Distilled through the speeches, the debates, and the slogan-filled sound bytes, it was pretty much: “Any fool can see you’ll be better off with me than with him.” Trump however, came to Wisconsin, spoke directly to the crowds there, told them he felt their pain, and would help them “Make American Great Again.” As one small town mayor reported from a similar rally in a depressed area of Pennsylvania: “I don’t know if he can do what he says, but at least he knows we’re here.” Hillary, in contrast, spent much of the month of August in wealthy summer enclaves of the East Coast where a single picture of you with the candidate set you back 10K. (Cher however, was a bargain at 5.)
If there is one thing I learned from my grandfather all those years ago, it was this: if you want people to do something for you, say, elect you to office, don’t talk down to them, and don’t ignore what they have to say because you think you know better. The Clinton campaign obviously didn’t get that memo, and the “basket of deplorables” rose up and struck back. And it wasn’t just the Republicans, either. While registered Republicans largely held their nose and stayed with the Donald, in several of the swing states 40 percent of registered Democrats voted Trump for president.
So I have a recommendation (also via my grandfather) for all the people who feel hurt and demoralized today: get off your buns and start working right now for 2020. Find (or become) a candidate that listens to the “flyover zone” and is not merely bi-coastal. We need a presidential candidate who is HONEST with the American people and doesn’t spiel platitudes to get their votes. It’s clear from this past election that many Americans feel threatened, that their way of life is slipping away, and frankly, IT IS. Both Clinton and Trump promised to bring back jobs to the US, and even as they mouthed these words, they knew they were lies. These jobs didn’t go to people in Mexico or China: they went to Mexican and Chinese robotized factories, and the continuing trend towards automation of even white collar jobs over the next decade is going to cause massive social upheaval throughout America and the world. We need a candidate who knows and admits this, and has a plan better than “Trust me, it’s going to be sooooo wonderful.” (Supply your own thumb-pinching hand gesture.) We need a candidate who will work to prepare our communities and our citizens for the very real dangers of climate change. We need a candidate who admits that globalization will happen with or without us, and shows us how we can adapt to this new reality, rather than bashing 20-year old trade deals or blaming foreign governments. We need a candidate who celebrates our multi-racial, multi-gendered heritage and realizes that “From Many One” is more than a motto stamped on a coin. And most of all we need a candidate who agrees that concentrating 40% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of 1% of the population is not only immoral but an existential threat to our democracy.
THAT person should be our next president.
So come on people, this election is over. You’ve now got a four-year head start to make a difference. Time to stop worrying about yesterday, and instead start creating your own tomorrow.
Beyond Tomorrow 2: Arts, Culture, Community & the Future of Civilization
Or, watch the trailer
Wintersession 2017 January 20 – 22
Convening Vision Statement:
Today, as the twin challenges of climate change and explosive population growth loom ever larger — with their concomitant by-products of economic and political instability — the word “resilient” is heard seen again and again: utility infrastructure must be upgraded to be storm “resilient“; public safety nets must be strengthened to be more “resilient”; new, more “resilient” systems must be put in place to prevent economic disasters. Yet the sad truth is that we can only go so far in strengthening the defenses of our external world. In the end, humanity will have to adapt to whatever new reality is presented to us. But while we may not be the masters of our future, we most certainly are the creators of possibility.
Seventy years ago, on the eve of World War II, FDR addressed the graduates of the University of Pennsylvania. It was a foreboding time, with war and despotism advancing across the world. Yet despite apparent darkness of the hour, FDR saw a way forward. “It is the function of education,” he reminded them, “the function of all of the great institutions of learning in the United States, to provide continuity for our national life — to transmit to youth the best of our culture that has been tested in the fire of history. It is equally the obligation of education to train the minds and the talents of our youth; to improve, through creative citizenship our American institutions in accord with the requirements of the future.”
Heading Roosevelt’s call, Adams House and the FDR Foundation, in partnership with Camino Arts, a Latino arts initiative, will be asking this question: “How can the global citizens use the power of the arts and humanities to address the challenges that confront our communities and our planet today and threaten our very existence in the future?”
Thus throughout the three days of the conference, we will highlight creative thinkers in fields as diverse as ancient Mayan culture to bio-molecular exploration, who will share with us their examples of non-linear, creative leaps that have influenced their work; identify sources of their inspiration; and show us how to better harness imagination and curiosity in our own fields of endeavor. And to provide additional proof that thinking outside-the-box can make for incredible results, conference attendees will participate in hands-on workshops that in a space of an hour, will introduce them to a new creative lens to see the world.
In a feature unique to Beyond Tomorrow, students will also have the opportunity for small group and one-on-one mentoring sessions with distinguished faculty and performers including: David Carasco, Benjamín Juárez Echenique, Edward Glaeser, Susan Israel, Cynthia Koch, Robert Lue, Ruben Navarrette, Mark Plotkin, Margarita Quihuis, Nick Taylor, Marisa Silver, Michael Weishan and Jed Willard. There will also be performances and workshops by op-ed cartoonist and television writer Lalo Alcaraz, the Mexican folk music ensemble Radio Jarocho, concert flutist Marisa Canales and Adams House student Sam Wu, who is composing a special piece for the conference and will offer its premier performance during the program.
Marcela Davison Avilés is a prominent American essayist, independent producer, attorney, and Latino cultural dramaturge and advisor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her national Op-Ed opinions appear online in MOSH.US and ModernLatina.com. and in print in the Mercury News. Her guest columns and features have been published by CNN.com, the American Banker and Harvard University’s Revista Magazine. Her work as a producer and curator has appeared in prestigious concert halls, international festivals and museums. Ms. Aviles’ current activities in broadcast, film and digital platforms include episodic television with the Walt Disney Company, and animated feature films with Pixar Animation Studios.
Diego Canales, born and raised in Mexico City, received his Engineer’s degree from that city’s Universidad Iberoamericana. During his time in the university, he won the freshmen Engineering competition. Later on in his senior year, he was a project leader for a research initiative to develop tools and equipment for rural farmers in the most remote areas of Mexico. The focus of this initiative was to develop efficient tools that could be powered with the human body.
He joined the team of Dr. Francisco Gurria in the Coordinación General de Ganadería where he worked directly for the undersecretary for livestock policy at a federal level. Here he focused on generating food security in Mexico through promoting research and technological exchange between México and other countries. He focused on feed production for livestock and in finding new and sustainable ways to produce protein for the feed. Also, he worked closely with Mexican livestock producers and farmers to improve the productivity of the herd and quality of life in Mexico’s most vulnerable rural areas. In his time in SAGARPA he had the opportunity to travel throughout all of Mexico and obtain a deep understanding of Mexico’s Ag and Livestock industry. It is here through this work that he understood the great challenge agricultural industry the world over is facing. Will we as a humanity keep the status quo and continue to deplete the earth’s resources, or will we change the way we do things in order, not only to preserve resources but in doing so also become more productive and more efficient in growing food for the billions of people that live on this planet?
At Infinitree Diego brings a deep knowledge of agriculture tech and policy and a profound desire to create a significant but positive impact on the planet. Diego found the perfect constellation of challenges. To improve the productivity of food and ensure food security for generations to come all the while preserving water and resources and reducing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere to stave off global warming.
David Carrasco – Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, Harvard University. Davíd Carrasco is “a man of our time, a man of enormous vitality and value,” (Carlos de Icaza, the Ambassador of Mexico), who holds the inaugural Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University with a joint appointment at the Harvard Divinity School and in the Department of Anthropology of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Carrasco is an award winning author and editor and has received outstanding teaching awards from both the University of Colorado and Harvard University. Carrasco’s creative work in the history of religions has been lauded for its “existential oomph” which has resulted in the celebrated Cave, City and Eagle’s Nest (with Scott Sessions) Gold Medal from Publishers of the West, and City of Sacrifice, lauded by Carlos Fuentes as a “brilliant, provocative, timely and eternal book”. He is a leading interpreter of Latino/a cultures and the executive co-producer of the film “Alambrista: The Director’s Cut” which puts a human face on the ordeal of undocumented immigration into the United States. Carrasco lectures widely in the United States and abroad and was awarded the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle for his contributions to understanding the history and cultures of Mexico.
Benjamín Juárez Echenique – Professor of Fine Arts and Arts Leadership, Boston University, Co-Founder, Camino Arts. Professor Echenique is currently professor of Fine Arts and Arts Leadership at Boston University, a music conductor and scholar with over four decades of experience in the arts. Born in Mexico City, he studied in Mexico at the National School of Music, National University of Mexico, the California Institute of the Arts, where he obtained his Master of Fine Arts in Music, as well as in Italy, France and England. He was principal guest conductor and assistant conductor of the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1981; associate conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra from 1983 to 1987; and music director of the Gran Festival de la Ciudad de Mexico in 1989-90. He has lectured and run workshops on music and the arts in Mexico and abroad, where in 1984, Juarez was honored as the first Latin American to conduct an orchestra in China. He is a Latin Grammy nominee and produced and presented hundreds of radio and television programs in Mexico. He is currently affiliated to the research university Instituto Dr. Jose Ma. Luis Mora.
Edward Glaeser, Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences where he has taught since 1992. He regularly teaches microeconomics theory, and occasionally urban and public economics. He has served as Director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. He has published dozens of papers on cities economic growth, law, and economics. In particular, his work has focused on the determinants of city growth and the role of cities as centers of idea transmission. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1992. His books include Cities, Agglomeration, and Spatial Equilibrium (Oxford University Press, 2008), Rethinking Federal Housing Policy (American Enterprise Institute Press, 2008), and Triumph of the City (Penguin Press, 2011).
Cynthia M. Koch is Historian in Residence and Director of History Programing for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation at Adams House, Harvard University. She was Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York (1999-2011) and subsequently Senior Adviser to the Office of Presidential Libraries, National Archives, Washington, D.C. From 2013-16 she was Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY where she taught courses in public history and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her most recent publications are “They Hated Eleanor, Too,” “Hillary R[oosevelt] Clinton,” “Demagogues and Democracy,” and “Democracy and the Election” are published online by the FDR Foundation. Previously Dr. Koch was Associate Director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a national public policy research group at the University of Pennsylvania. She served as Executive Director (1993-1997) of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was Director (1979-1993) of the National Historic Landmark Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, New Jersey. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, she holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in History from Pennsylvania State University.
Robert A. Lue, Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard Robert Lue is a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University and the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, where he is responsible for fostering innovative teaching in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Lue earned his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard, and since 1988 has taught undergraduate courses acclaimed for their innovative and interdisciplinary approach. In 2012, Lue’s extensive work on using technology to enhance learning took a new direction when he became faculty director of HarvardX, Harvard’s university-wide online education initiative that includes the edX partnership with MIT. Lue now helps to shape Harvard’s engagement in online learning to reinforce its commitment to teaching excellence and expand its reach and impact globally. He also serves as the faculty director of the Harvard Ed Portal, the primary community engagement center in Harvard’s new Allston campus.
Frank O’Keefe is Co-Founder of Infinitree, which captures CO2 from ambient air for desorption in greenhouses. In 2008, monthly inflation in corn prices exceeded 2007’s entire annual inflation. Rice prices rose 147% for the year, wheat prices by 25% on a single day. The increased prices did not recede. Abruptly—in a single year—the entire world’s food, energy and economic foundations shifted, proving anything but solid. Scientists called for a moratorium on biofuel production from corn for food inflation was directly correlated from diversion of grains to fuel production. Many went hungry in 2008, some starved. People suffered horribly, and for many the suffering continues.
Frank has been focused on carbon capture since 2002, when he first began funding research in the space. He worked for 28 years in finance—following work in a hydrocarbon-based synthetic rubber plant on the Mississippi River in Louisiana. In finance Frank was drawn into risk management, contributing to creation of several important structured-finance innovations: options on oil futures enabling low-cost hedging for oil companies (Lehman Brothers 1986), liability-driven fixed income management for financial service companies and stable-value structures for 401(k) plans (Bankers Trust ‘90-‘93) and other institutional-investor applications (JPMorgan ‘93-’97, Zurich Capital Markets ’97-‘99). Today the 401(k) structure—now offered by several competing banks—protects more than $850 billion in retirement money belonging to more than 60 million working Americans. The structure replaced riskier structured financial products whose “guarantees” were credit-dependent. Frank founded his own risk management firm in 1999 growing to more than $7 billion in fixed income, $400 million in floating rate debt and nearly $2 billion in swap contracts: all structured to outperform and replace several specific capital-expensive, costly, inflexible, and risky institutional structured finance products. He ceased an active role in the company to found and manage Carbon Sink.
Ruben Navarrette, ‘91 syndicated columnist, Washington Post Writers Group Ruben Navarrette is the most widely read Latino columnist in the country, and the 16th most popular columnist in America according to Media Matters. He is a nationally syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group whose twice-a-week column appears in more than 100 newspapers, a contributor to USA Today and FOXNEWS.COM, and a regular columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a fellow at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. He is also the editor of MOSH OPINION, the opinion page of the social media site MOSH.US. On television, Navarrette has appeared on dozens of shows and been interviewed by Bill O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Lou Dobbs, Bill Moyers, and others. He also served as a panelist on the PBS’ All-American Presidential Forum in 2007, where he posed questions to Democratic candidates. On radio, he has been interviewed on dozens of local and national shows. He has been a commentator on National Public Radio. He has hosted radio shows in Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego, Fresno, and Los Angeles, and served as guest host for the nationally syndicated “The Michael Medved Show.” He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post, The Chicago Tribune, Texas Monthly, Hispanic Magazine, Latino Magazine, PODER Magazine, VOXXI.COM, TIME.COM, Encyclopedia Britannica, & other publications. A graduate of Harvard College and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, he is the author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” (Bantam, 1993).
Mark Nelson is Co-Director, Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford. A former relief-worker, investment banker, and social entrepreneur, Mark Nelson founded and co-directs Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, where he researches mass collaboration and mass interpersonal persuasion. Mark focuses on designing, catalyzing, incentivizing, and generating resources to scale up collective positive human behavior change. He has described a functional, quantitative definition of peace, in terms of technology-mediated engagement episode quantity and quality across social difference lines; he has identified innovative, automated ways to measure peace, both at the neighborhood and global level; and he has developed a formal structural description for Peace Data. He leads the Global OPEN Social Sensor Array project, and designs technology interventions to measurably increase positive, mutually beneficial engagement across conflict boundaries. Mark’s mission is to create an entire new, profitable industry, where positive peace is delivered as a service. Other projects include EPIC Global Challenge and Peace Markets. Mark is also a researcher and practitioner at Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and a member of Stanford’s Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory.
Mark Plotkin – A graduate of the Harvard Extension School (’79) Amazon Conservation Team co-founder Dr. Mark Plotkin is a renowned ethnobotanist who has studied traditional indigenous plant use with elder shamans (traditional healers) of Central and South America for much of the past 30 years. His organization (www.amazonteam.org) has partnered with 35 South American tribes to map, manage and improve protection of over 80 million acres of ancestral forests. His lecture of how to best protect uncontacted tribes is the single most popular TED Talk about the Amazon rainforest.
Margarita Quihuis – Co-Director, Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford. A social entrepreneur and mentor capitalist, Margarita Quihuis’s career has focused on innovation, technology incubation, access to capital and entrepreneurship. Her accomplishments include being the first director of Astia (formerly known as the Women’s Technology Cluster), a business incubator where her portfolio companies raised $67 million in venture funding, venture capitalist, Reuters Fellow at Stanford, and Director of RI Labs for Ricoh Innovations. She is currently a member of the research team at Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and co-directs the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab where she conducts research on innovation, mass collaboration, persuasive technology & the potential of social networks to change society for the better. Her projects have included the study of collaboration and citizen engagement to foster government innovation – Manor Labs, bottoms-up post-disaster response and recovery – Relief 2.0 and advisory roles in citizen psy-op efforts such as the the Israel Loves Iran and Romancing the Border social media campaigns. She is currently part of the working group for the Stanford/Naval Postgraduate School/US Army Governance Innovation for Security and Development research project. She is a recognized thought leader in the areas of innovation, emergent social behavior and technology and has been part of Deloitte’s On Social Roundtable and Aspen Institute’s Dialogue on Open Innovation and Dialogue on Diplomacy and Technology.
Nick Taylor, author, Director, Steinbeck Center, San Jose State University Nick Taylor is an associate professor of English at San Jose State University, Director of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Stenbeck Studies at SJSU and an author of historical novels. His work has earned a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship and the Michael Shaara Prize for Civil War fiction. Nick’s published work includes The Disagreement (Simon & Schuster, 2008), Father Junipero’s Confessor (Heyday, 2013) and The Setup Man (Doubleday 2014).
Marisa Silver, ’81 – author and essayist Marisa Silver is the author, most recently, of the novel, Little Nothing. Her other novels include Mary Coin, a New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award for Fiction, The God of War, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, and No Direction Home. Her first collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. When her second collection, Alone With You was published, The New York Times called her “one of California’s most celebrated contemporary writers.” Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine’s first “Debut Fiction” issue. Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies.
Michael Weishan ‘86 Director, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation, Harvard College
Jed Willard ‘96 Director, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation, Harvard College
Performers, Artists and Workshop Leaders:
Lalo Alcaraz – syndicated op-ed cartoonist
Lalo Alcaraz is most known for being the author of the comic La Cucaracha, the first nationally syndicated, politically themed Latino daily comic strip. Launched in 2002, La Cucaracha has become one of the most controversial in the history of American comic strips. He is also the creator of “Daniel D. Portado”, a satirical Hispanic character who in 1994 called on Mexican immigrants to return south—”reverse immigration”—as a response to the controversial Proposition 187. In 2012, Daniel D. Portado returned to the headlines as a result of Mitt Romneys call, during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, on undocumented immigrants to exercise “self-deportation.” A leading figure in the Chicano movement, Alcaraz also contributes political cartoons for LA Weekly and hosts a radio show on KPFK called the “Pocho Hour of Power.” He also contributed a work of art to the 2008 Obama campaign called “Viva Obama”. Alcaraz recently taught as a faculty member at Otis College of Art & Design, and is teaching illustration at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, CA, starting in fall 2016. Alcaraz was also Consulting Producer and Writer on the Seth MacFarlane–executive produced animated show (created by Family Guy show runner Mark Hentemann) Bordertown, which ran one 13-episode season on Fox. It featured the first animated Mexican-American or even Latino family on primetime American television.
Melissa Allen Heath, ’80 – retired EPA attorney and environmental activist, is the Founding Director of GreenEdge Georgia, a private consultancy. GreenEdge Georgia advises individuals and companies in greening the things that matter — lifestyle, bottom line, and image. Prior to launching GreenEdge, Ms. Allen was an enforcement attorney with the Evironmental Protection Agency, across all programs, most recently CERCLA (Superfund) matters, focusing particularly on removal actions and mercury spill issues. Her EPA workgroup and team participation includes the following: National Mercury Workgroup, National Financial Responsibility Workgroup, Children’s Environmental Health Workgroup, Go4Green Team, and legal adviser to the Regional Employees Recreation Association.
Dr. Martin Camacho is Dean of the College of Fine Arts in addition to serving on the faculty of the Department of Music. Dr. Camacho was born in Mexico City, and began his piano studies in that city at Escuela Superior de Música. He continued his studies at Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in 1993. He received a Master of Music Degree in 1997 and a Professional Studies Diploma in 1999 from the Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of pianist Sergei Babayan. Dr. Camacho completed his doctoral studies in 2006 at the University of Miami in the studio of pianist Ivan Davis.
Martin Camacho has won eighteen national and local competitions in Mexico, Cuba, and the United States, and is considered one of the most important Mexican pianists of his generation. He has appeared as soloist with orchestras in the United States and Mexico, including Mexico’s State Orchestra and Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra, and has performed extensively as a recitalist in the United States, Venezuela, Cuba, Japan, Norway, Italy, and Mexico. During the summer of 2000, he toured as soloist with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, performing in more than fifteen cities in the USA and Canada. Dr. Camacho is also active in chamber and collaborative music with singers and other instrumentalists. In 2009 he made his Carnegie Hall Debut Recital to great acclaim before a sold-out hall.
Camacho’s expertise in Mexican and Latin American music has led to several presentations in national and international conferences of lectures and recitals of topics related to Mexican music. He has been the recipient of Mexico’s National Endowment for the Arts (FONCA) prestigious grant for his dissemination of Mexican music. Before his appointment as a Dean of the Fain College of Fine Arts, he was Chair of the Department of Music at Alabama State University, served as a full-time music faculty and Assistant Chair at Barry University Fine Arts Department in Miami Shores, FL, and as Dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the Community College of Rhode Island.
Marisa Canales – concert flutist, founder, Urtext Digital Classics and Camino Arts.
Marisa Canales is a Mexican flute player and Latin Grammy nominated record producer. She was born in Mexico City where she started her musical studies; she later attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, then Philadelphia College of Performing Arts (PCPA), where she studied with Adeline Tomasone and was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree Magna Cum Laude (1985). At the National Conservatory of Versailles, France she obtained First Prizes in Flute and Chamber Music working with Jean-Michel Varache (Île-de-France and Lamoureux Orchestras) and with Jean-Claude Montac (Opera Bastille Orchestra). Marisa performs regularly with the leading Mexican orchestras: National Symphony Orchestra, National University Philharmonic, Carlos Chavez Symphony, Xalapa Orchestra, Querétaro Symphony, Mexico City Chamber Ensemble. She has recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra Lalo Schifrin’s “Concierto Caribeño”, a work commissioned for and dedicated to her. She has also premiered and recorded a large number of flute works (over fifty), many written for her by leading American, Mexican and Latin American composers such as Samuel Zyman, Eugenio Toussaint, Armando Luna, Ian Krouse, and many others. Her CDs have been released by Urtext Digital Classics, Mexico’s leading classical label, of which she is founder and artistic director.
Susan Israel – ’81, Principal and Founder, Climate Creatives
Susan Israel is an architect, artist, climate communicator, and social entrepreneur. In 2008, after 20 years as an architect, she decided that she wanted to do something more for our climate, and founded Climate Creatives to engage, educate and empower people to act on climate change. She uses art and design because data alone doesn’t do it: behavioral change begins with an emotional commitment. Climate Creatives offers proprietary programs and hands-on creative workshops for sustainability, innovation, communication and leadership. Susan’s Distributed Public Art installations connect communities that foster awareness and action towards a more sustainable world. Susan uses her own artwork as a personal lab for exploring ways to connect people to climate issues through art, and her work has been exhibited in over a dozen group shows in recent years. Susan is a registered architect, LEED Accredited Professional; Connective Leadership Institute Certified Trainer; Member of the Harvard Alumni Association Board of Directors; and Member of the Advisory Board of ArtWeek Boston. She holds an A.B. from Harvard College, a Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and attended Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston.
Radio Jarocho – Mexican folk music ensemble
Radio Jarocho plays son jarocho music fashioned after the towns, musicians, and swampy countryside that created it in Veracruz, Mexico. They also write their own songs inspired by this popular genre and tailor them with assorted influences, creating a contemporary repertoire that captures the spirit of the traditional style. The band championed son jarocho by performing over the past decade in dozens of concerts and fandangos in several cities, including New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston. The ensemble has performed in many prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, La Casita at Lincoln Center, Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY; Encuentro de Jaraneros in Chicago, IL; Celebrate Mexico Now! New York, NY; Organization of American States, Washington D.C.; and the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian), New York, NY.
Ronstadt Generations y Los Tucsonenses
Representing five generations in North America, Ronstadt Generations continues the family’s musical traditions. Started by Michael J. Ronstadt (younger brother of Grammy Hall of Fame Honoree Linda Ronstadt) and his sons, Michael G. and Petie, they present an exciting repertoire that preserves the traditional Southwestern and Mexican songs of their heritage while offering innovative original material. New compositions place them on the cutting edge of multiple, blended genres, stretching the boundaries of folk, folk-rock, blues, jazz and beyond. Rich harmonies sung in English and Spanish are accompanied by outstanding cello and guitars. Individually and together, stateside and across the pond, the trio’s worldwide touring and recording credits include such diverse artists as Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, Dixie Hummingbirds, David Bromberg, Nydia Rojas, Tish Hinojosa, Muriel Anderson, and Mariachi Vargas, to name a few. Michael J. Ronstadt passed away on August 7, 2016. His sons and Los Tucsonenses carry on his musical legacy with Ronstadt Generations Y Los Tucsonenses.
Deborah Vogel Cornwall, ‘80 – independent television producer, social media consultant, alto
Deb Vogel is a TV news and sports producer, and most recently serving as Co-Executive Producer of BugBites, a science show for kids seen on PBS stations. She is a lifelong singer and performer, starting her first band at the age of 12. While an undergraduate at Harvard, she sang with the Radcliffe Choral Society and the University Choir, while also playing guitar and singing in a popular campus rock band. Ms. Vogel continues to sing, both secularly and non-secularly, around Southern California.
Lois Nesbitt – ’81 – one of the world’s most highly educated yoga teachers, has trained 1000s of yoga teachers worldwide, including 18 extended tours all across China; several visits to Japan, and many to Central America—all requiring her to adapt her teaching to radically different cultural milieus and historical contexts. She has also studied yoga history and philosophy under Douglas Brooks, (Ph.D. Harvard; professor at University of Rochester), with a special focus on Tantra, the path that leads from the mat out into the world. She delights in sharing the rich philosophical teachings of yoga with all she encounters, on and off the mat. Her workshop is informed by a view that Yoga is one of modern civilization’s leading “growth industries,” having spread from India to the West, from underdeveloped regions to high-tech meccas, from elite resorts and fitness centers to underserved public schools, VA hospitals, and prisons. Dr. Nesbit’s session will introduce you to why and how yoga is such a powerful key to unlocking our potential. You’ll learn—and even feel, through some simple, street-clothes-on movements–how when we move our bodies in new ways, our thinking clears up, and our hearts expand.
Sam Wu ’17 is a composer and conductor from Shanghai, China. He has studied composition under Tan Dun, Libby Larsen, Chaya Czernowin, Jason Eckardt, and David Conte; conducting under George Benjamin, Federico Cortese, and Andrew Clark.
Winner of Harvard’s John Green, Hugh F. MacColl, and Artist Development Prizes, Ensemble Ibis Competition, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, among others, his music has been performed in the United States, Australia, France, Portugal, Japan, China, and Indonesia. His collaborators include the Melbourne Symphony, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Shanghai Chamber Orchestra, National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Shanghai International Arts Festival, Asia Society, Sydney University Confucius Institute, Parker Quartet, Antioch Chamber Ensemble, Callithumpian Consort, Princeton Pianists’ Society, Harvard Ballet Company, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man, among others.
In addition to composing, Sam has served as the assistant conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, music director of the Mozart Society Orchestra, Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players, Harvard Early Music Society, and guest conductor of the Harvard Bach Society Orchestra.
Sam also has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, Business Insider, Harvard Crimson, Harvard Arts Blog, Sydney Morning Herald, Asahi Shimbun, People’s Daily, China Daily USA, SinoVision, four CCTV channels, ICS, Shanghai municipal TV Channels, among others.
Venue: Adams House and Boylston Hall, Harvard College
SIGN UP INFORMATION: HERE
Convening Day 1: Friday, January 20, 2017
Friday evening the conference kicks off with an evening of music and dancing, both commemorating and celebrating FDR’s efforts to use creative methods to bring people together in common cause. The Good Neighbor Policy is a great example of that vision – and we’ll reinvigorate FDR’s vision with music performed by outstanding Latino artists – Ronstadt Generations and Radio Jarocho, and food hosted by the Mexican Consulate of Boston.
Adams House Dining Hall – Doors open 8:00PM
Convening Day 2: Saturday, January 21
Location for the conference plenary remarks and panels will be Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall, Harvard University. Please note: some talk titles are placeholders and will be finalized in November.
Michael Weishan: FDR, Henry Wallace, and How They Solved America’s First Ecological Crisis: The Great Dustbowl
As an introduction to how creative thinking can diffuse a crisis, Michael Weishan, FDR Foundation Director, will explore how a few radical thinkers like Henry A, Wallace prevented America’s greatest humanitarian crisis to date and very likely saved the United States from dissolution in the 1930s.
Mark Plotkin: Maps, Magic and Medicine in the Amazon Rainforest
The number two source of climate-changing gases being released into the atmosphere is forest burning, most of which happens in the tropics. For decades, environmentalists have been trying to determine the most effective way of protecting rainforests and one recently proven methodology is partnering with indigenous peoples to protect ancestral ecosystems. In this fast-paced talk, Plotkin will describe how his 30 year relationship with paramount shamans – and his organization’s pioneering use of cutting edge technology – has helped create a new paradigm for protecting rainforests, indigenous healing wisdom, and fighting climate change.
Marisa Silver, Margarita Quihuis, Benjamín Juárez Echenique, Marcela Davison Aviles, moderated by Mark Plotkin: Creating Creativity
Join us for a free lunch provided by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and a workshop performance by Radio Jarocho
1:30-2:30 PM Breakout Workshops (see below)
Sign up sheets for the workshops will be available upon check-in.
2:45-3:30 Frank O’Keefe and Diego Canales: Harvesting CO2
Saturday Closing Address
Ruben Navarette: What Our Youth Needs to Know
Sam Wu, composer
Typhoon Days: Trio for flute, violin and piano
Convening Day 3: Sunday, January 22, 2017
David Carrasco: Illuminating the Aztecs
Nick Taylor, Cynthia Koch and Benjamín Juárez Echenique Envisioning New Americas: How the Roosevelts, John Steinbeck and Mexico’s Nationalism Arts Movement created a new vision for global understanding
11:25-12:00 PM Margarita Quihuis: Harnessing Gaming Technology for Peace
1:10 – :140 Post Luncheon Talk
Join Marisa Silver, New York Times best-selling author Marisa Silver discusses her new book, Little Nothing, and explores other examples of the surreal or allegorical as a response to repressive or violent political moments.
1:45 -2:45 Breakout Workshops
Edward Glaeser: Cities as Centers of Creativity
The rich and the poor world have urbanized dramatically over the past 50 years. This transformation creates challenges and opportunities. Making the cities of the developing world stronger is one of the great vocations of the twenty-first century.
Sunday Closing Address
Robert Lue: Science and Art: The Inextricable Link
Closing Performances and Reception:
Location: Adams House Lower Common Room, Adams House
Beyond Tomorrow Workshop Performances
BT Pop-Up Choir
Piano and flute with Marisa Canales
Original ensemble composition by Sam Wu performed by Harvard students
Afternoon Workshops: Creativity and Confidence
- So … You Think you Can’t Fandango? A lunch workshop on Saturday January 21 in the Mexican folk music genre called “Son Jarocho” with Radio Jarocho. Learn the elements of creating harmony through a fusion of step dancing, singing, and instrumentation.
- So…. You Think You Can’t Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? a workshop on reducing landfill waste by adopting easy lifestyle “hacks” hosted by environmental activist and EPA attorney Melissa Allen ’80
- So … You Think You Can’t Draw? – a workshop with syndicated political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz (both days). From zero experience, learn how to draw cartoons that are not only funny but socially relevant.
- So … You Think You Can’t Sing? a workshop on creating pop-up community choirs taught by Deborah Vogel with members of the Harvard acapella community (both days)
- So … You Think You Can’t Be an Advocate? a workshop on climate change centered arts advocacy with Susan Israel
- So … You Think You Can’t Change The World? a workshop and discussion on the impact of John Steinbeck – Nick Taylor, the Steinbeck Center
- So… You Think Yoga Can’t Change the World? no yoga mats or special clothes required! This interactive discussion/workshop will introduce some street-clothes-on samplings of how yoga works, as we explore it’s power to change the world, one breath at a time – with Lois Nesbit ’81
SIGN UP INFORMATION: HERE
FDR’s Last Personal Diplomacy: Ibn Saud and the Quest for a Jewish Homeland
The alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States goes back seven decades, to when King Abdulaziz, the founder of the modern Saudi state, met President Franklin Delano Roosevelt aboard the U.S.S. Quincy at the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal.
New York Times, September 29, 2016
With Saudi-American relations in the news again, I thought it worth remembering that today’s alliance had its beginnings in one last bit of Rooseveltian personal diplomacy: an attempt to use his redoubtable skills on behalf of European Jews.
The meeting with King Abdulaziz (often known in the West as Ibn Saud) took place immediately following the Yalta Conference in February 1945 when the Big Three—Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, and Roosevelt—hammered out the final diplomatic agreements of the Second World War. Besides the conference with Ibn Saud, Roosevelt also arranged meetings with King Farouk of Egypt and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia that are little remembered today.
By scheduling the meetings without Churchill’s knowledge, Roosevelt breached the United States’ longstanding hands-off policy respecting Britain’s sphere of influence in the region. When Churchill learned of the meetings, he hastened to schedule talks of his own. But a change was already under way.
The strategic importance of the Middle East had become increasingly clear during the war, and Roosevelt’s economic and military advisers were anxious to secure America’s military presence in the Middle East—as well as cement America’s budding oil-drilling partnership with Saudi Arabia. These were solid reasons for Roosevelt to meet with Ibn Saud, but there is ample evidence that Palestine was the main purpose of the president’s visit.
In 1944 both Republicans and Democrats vied for Jewish votes with pro-Zionist planks in their campaign platforms. But this statement from Roosevelt, read to the Zionist Organization of America on October 15, confirmed the loyalty of American Jewry to the Democratic Party. “I know how long and ardently the Jewish people have worked and prayed for the establishment of Palestine as a free and Democratic Jewish commonwealth. I am convinced that the American people give their support to this aim, and if reelected, I shall help to bring about its realization” (quoted in Breitman and Lichtman, p. 259).
Historian Robert Rosen and others point out that Roosevelt had also privately promised his Jewish friends to try to solve the problem of Palestine before the war was over. Before he left for Yalta, he conferred with Rabbi Stephen Wise and told his Cabinet that he would meet Saud and “try and settle the Palestine situation” (quoted in Rosen, pp. 409–410). Historians Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman recount that after the election he began to make plans for the Yalta trip, stating to Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, “I am going to take a trip [the Yalta Conference] this winter and will see a lot of people. . . . I want to see if I can’t unravel this whole situation [the question of Palestine] on the ground,” leading them to conclude that Roosevelt hoped to use his personal, persuasive diplomacy to settle matters on Palestine (p. 297). In early January, Roosevelt told Stettinius that when he met with Ibn Saud after Yalta, he wanted a map with him that showed the small size of Palestine in relation to the Arab world in order to make the case that “he could not see why a portion of Palestine could not be given to the Jews without harming in any way the interests of the Arabs with the understanding, of course, that the Jews would not move into adjacent part of the Near East from Palestine” (Breitman and Lichtman, p. 299).
Franklin Roosevelt and Ibn Saud meeting aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, February 14, 1945.
Roosevelt’s translator at Yalta, Charles Bohlen, recorded in his memoirs Witness to History (p. 212) that Roosevelt raised the subject with Stalin during the Yalta Conference in a controversial conversation that contained an unfortunate remark that led some to label Roosevelt anti-Zionist. Breitman and Lichtman interpret the anti-Semitic exchange as an “ice-breaker,” which Roosevelt used to test the waters of Stalin’s potential opposition to a Jewish homeland in Palestine—and found no resistance (p. 301). Roosevelt biographer Frank Freidel agrees, “In actuality Roosevelt was stubbornly pro-Zionist, and had a difficult time with Ibn Saud when he tried to persuade the king to accept 10,000 more Jews in Palestine” (p. 594). Breitman and Licthman also tell us that Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who worked closely with the president, believed that Roosevelt “like the late Justice Brandeis, thought a Jewish state would become a model of social justice and would raise standards of living in the region. FDR also knew that Saudi Arabia badly needed outside funds for development. Surely a farsighted Arab leader would recognize such benefits—along with the advantages of American aid” (p. 299) Adding to all of these considerations, the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army in late January revealed to the world the horrors of the Holocaust. Thomas Lippman, another scholar of the subject, states categorically that Roosevelt met with Ibn Saud because “the Jews had a claim on the world’s conscience, and on Roosevelt’s” (p. 3).
By all accounts the meeting with King Abdulaziz was extraordinary. Ibn Saud and his retinue of 47—which included an astrologer and food taster—traveled across the Arabian peninsula from Riyadh to Jeddah where they boarded the U.S.S. Murphy for a two-day sail on the Red Sea to Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal. Only once before had the king left the Arabian peninsula. Fitted out for the king’s use, the Murphy’s deck was covered with colorful carpets and shaded by an enormous brown canvas tent. A flock of sheep, brought along for fresh meat, grazed in a corral. Food was cooked on charcoal braziers on the deck. Abdulaziz, 64 years old, a large and imposing black-bearded man dressed in Arab robes, his headdress regally bound with golden cords, was seated on a golden throne. The king was attended by barefoot Arab warriors armed with long rifles, each with a scimitar bound to his waist. One American witness described it as “a spectacle out of the ancient past on the deck of a modern man-of-war” (quoted in Lippman, p. 2).
Roosevelt waited on the U.S.S Quincy, surrounded by his own retinue of admirals and high-ranking diplomats. Ibn Saud was transferred to the Quincy and the two leaders, meeting from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on February 14, 1945, forged an improbable alliance that linked the two nations and shaped the history of the Middle East for decades to come.
I first learned about the meeting between Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz in 2003 when American Counsel to Saudi Arabia, Hugh Geohagan, visited the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park. His purpose was to discuss returning to the Library a collection of objects that had been borrowed a few years earlier for an exhibition, “Gifts of Friendship,” in the King Abdulaziz Archives in Riyadh. Held in 2002, the exhibition commemorated the centennial of Abdulaziz’s rule by displaying the state gifts that he and Roosevelt exchanged in their shipboard meeting in 1945.
DC-3 passenger plane given by FDR to King Abdelaziz.
Ibn Saud’s gifts to FDR included brightly colored camel’s hair robes embroidered with gold, hand-painted perfume bottles, a bottle of granular musk, lumps of ambergris, a gold dagger set with diamonds, and a gold filigree sword and belt set with diamonds. In return FDR famously gave the king a DC-3 passenger plane (fully staffed with a crew supplied by the U.S), which marked the beginning of the Saudi Air Force. When he saw that the king had trouble walking, FDR spontaneously gave him one of his wheelchairs. The gifts were extraordinary, but not as extraordinary as the meeting itself.
Formal talks began after they had exchanged the gifts and enjoyed lunch and Arabian coffee. “Roosevelt came straight to the most urgent point: the plight of the Jews and the future of Palestine, where it was already apparent that the governing mandate bestowed upon Britain by the League of Nations twenty years earlier would come to an end after the war” (Lippman, p. 8).
Memoir of the meeting by Col. William A. Eddy, U.S. Minister to Saudi Arabia and translator of the meeting.
An account of the conversation, FDR Meets Ibn Saud, was published by U.S. Minister to Saudi Arabia Col. William A. Eddy, who was deeply involved in the intricate intercultural arrangements for the meeting. Born in what is now Lebanon, Eddy was fluent in Arabic, and as translator, was the only person to hear both sides of the conversation between the two leaders. As quoted from Eddy’s account in Rosen (pp. 412–413), “President Roosevelt was in top form as a charming host, witty conversationalist, with the spark and light in his eyes and that gracious smile which always won people over to him whenever he talked with them as a friend. . . . With Ibn Saud he was at his very best.” Roosevelt said that he felt “a personal responsibility” for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust who had suffered “indescribable horrors at the hands of the Nazis: eviction, destruction of their homes, torture, and mass murder” and asked the king for his advice. The king replied that the Allies as victors should give the Jews and “their descendants the choicest lands and homes of the Germans who had oppressed them.” Roosevelt responded that the Jews had a deep desire to settle in Palestine and were fearful of remaining in Germany. The king said he did not doubt that the Jews did not trust the Germans, but “surely the Allies will destroy Nazi power forever and in their victory will be strong enough to protect Nazi victims. If the Allies do not expect firmly to control future German policy, why fight this costly war?” He lectured the president on the long history of animosity between Arabs and Jews.
Continuing with Eddy’s account as recounted in Rosen, Roosevelt persisted, saying that he counted on Arab “hospitality” and on the king’s help solving the problem of Zionism, but the king repeated his position. “Amends should be made by the criminal, not by the innocent bystander. What injury have Arabs done to the Jews of Europe? It is the ‘Christian’ Germans who stole their homes and lives.” Later Roosevelt returned a third time to the subject. The king lost patience, observing that American “oversolicitude for the Germans was incomprehensible to an uneducated Bedouin with whom friends get more solicitude than enemies.” Ibn Saud’s final remark on the subject reiterated his unalterable position. According to Arab custom, he said, survivors and victims of battle were distributed among the victors according to their number and their supplies of food and water. Palestine, he said, was a small, land-poor country “and had already been assigned more than its quota of European refugees.” Still Roosevelt persevered. “The Arabs would choose to die,” he told the president, “rather than yield their land to the Jews.” Roosevelt offered economic aid, irrigation projects, and improved living standards for the Saudi people who were then poverty stricken by war-time disruptions to their economy (quoted in Rosen, pp. 413–414).
But the king was adamant. Was his confidence shaken? He later told Eleanor Roosevelt that his failure to convince Ibn Saud was his one complete failure. To Rabbi Wise he said, “I most gloriously failed where you are concerned.” To Congress, in his report on the Yalta Conference, he said only, “I learned more about that whole problem, the Moslem problem, the Jewish problem, by talking with Ibn Saud for five minutes than I could have learned in the exchange of two or three dozen letters.” He later reported to Wise:
There was nothing I could do with him. We talked for three hours and I argued with the old fellow up hill and down dale, but he stuck to his guns. He said he could see the flood engulfing his lands, Jews pouring in from Eastern Europe and from America, from the Riviera and from California, and he could not bear the thought. He was an old man and he had swollen ankles and he wanted to live out his life in peace without leaving a memory of himself as a traitor to the Arab cause [quoted in Rosen, p. 415].
Roosevelt himself had less than two months to live. Judge Joseph Proskauer later recalled that FDR was frightened now for the Jews in Palestine. He believed that “either a war or a pogrom would ensue” (quoted in Rosen, p. 416).
Diamond and gold dagger and scabbard given by King Abdulaziz to FDR. Courtesy FDR Library and Museum.
Why did he do it? This was one of Roosevelt’s last acts. Surely he knew that his life was slipping away. Too ill to endure a fourth inauguration ceremony on Capitol Hill, a swearing in was held at the White House followed by the second briefest inaugural address in history. Yet two days later he began his 14,000-mile journey to Yalta, where he secured his twin priorities of Soviet entry into the war in the Pacific and Stalin’s commitment to the United Nations. It was only Roosevelt’s vision of a secure and peaceful postwar world that sustained him—not only at Yalta, but also to extend his arduous journey and meet with King Abdulaziz.
Many historians have reported on Roosevelt’s supreme confidence, his steadfast belief that through personal diplomacy—by meeting adversaries face to face—he could solve problems that stymied others. Breitman and Lichtman report on a telling incident, “After attending a presidential session on the Middle East, State Department economic advisor Herbert Feis said, ‘I’ve read of men who thought they might be King of the Jews and other men who thought they might be King of the Arabs, but this is the first time I’ve listened to a man who dreamt of being King of both the Jews and the Arabs’” (quoted in Breitman and Lichtman, p. 299).
Despite his own failure at Great Bitter Lake, Roosevelt’s belief in the power of personal diplomacy was intact. It was, after all, the foundational idea for the United Nations—that is, that seemingly intractable problems can be solved in a world organization that brings people together to overcome their differences. A belief fervently shared by Eleanor Roosevelt, for FDR it was the only hope that the world could avert war.
With his health failing, FDR went to Warm Springs on March 30 to attempt to recover his strength. There he would write his “Jefferson Day” radio address, scheduled for April 13. He died on April 12.
With his powers of personal diplomacy failing, Roosevelt bequeathed to all of us the hope that what he knew about “science of human relationships” could be invested in a world organization. The fate of the Jews of Europe, like so much unfinished business of the Second World War, would fall to the United Nations. There has been no end to war, but neither has there been a Third World War.
Bohlen, Charles E. Witness to History: 1929-1969. New York: W.W. Norton, 1973.
Breitman, Richard and Allan J. Lichtman. FDR and the Jews. Cambridge: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2013.
Coppola, John. “A Pride of Museums in the Desert: Saudi Arabia and the ‘Gift of Friendship’ Exhibition,” Curator 48/1 (January 2005): 90-100.
Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston and New York: Little Brown, 1990.
Lippman, Thomas, W. “The Day FDR Met Saudi Arabia’s Ibn Saud,” The Link (April-May 2005):1-13.
Rosen, Robert. N. Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006.