Some Cheering News

Fellow Friends of the Foundation,

In the wake of so much bloodshed and cultural turmoil here and abroad in recent weeks, I wanted to share with you some cheering news for a change. I just this morning received an email from Farhan Javed ’18 (’of Currier House and Tulsa, Oklahoma) who is studying at the Central Bank of Armenia this summer thanks to the FDR Global Fellowship based at Adams House. The spirit Farhan evinces — a desire to both learn and teach, both to accept and be accepted, and most of all, to explore unexpected intellectual paths and ligatures — is EXACTLY what we have been trying to do with this program. We are so proud to have him as Adams’ (and Harvard’s) face to the world. Please read his email. I think you’ll find it a refreshing tonic to your day.

All best, Michael

Hi Michael,

These past two months working at the Central Bank here in Armenia have really opened me up to a new world. I’ve had the opportunity to travel up and down the country, from the industrial cities to the forested mountain towns and rural villages. I can sincerely attest to the hospitality of the people here.  Wherever I’ve gone, strangers have invited me into their homes, insisted on feeding me, and have constantly pried and questioned if I am ever in need of anything. Armenia is, by global standards, a poor country with institutions and systems that don’t always function as they’re supposed to. But the people honestly have very rich hearts and that has made all the excursions rewarding.

One of the big challenges I thought I would face was observing Ramadan during the summer in this rather homogeneous conservative Christian nation. Most people here had never met a Muslim before, and despite strained relations with their Muslim majority neighbors like Azerbaijan and Turkey, I never once felt threatened or discriminated against. People were full of curiosity and I loved answering their questions. During my free time, I visited a lot (emphasis on “a lot”) of churches and monasteries. The sheer quantity of churches would put the Bible Belt to shame. It was an amazing feeling to be a fasting Muslim sitting in a church, listening to choir music, and realizing that we all have a mutual desire for some sort of transcendence. These instances changed the way I internally approached the labels of Christian and Muslim. It didn’t make me want to blur the lines, but rather increased my respect for the fact that we could choose to have those lines and that those labels gave us all meaning. It was also a great plus to find restaurants run by Arab-Armenian (members of the diaspora that had returned after living for a few generations in places like Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria) because they served halal food with the familiar zesty spiciness that I was familiar with from my own background.

Another cool realization I had was all the linguistic connections I began to make. The vast majority of Armenians only speak Armenian and Russian (a vestige of their Soviet legacy). I had the fortunate opportunity to be able to take Armenian classes at the bank and as I progressed I noticed some very definitive cognates and similarities between Armenian and my own native Urdu (the national language of Pakistan), which I realized was due to both regions having been under heavy Persian influence for significant periods of history. Discoveries liked that increased my sense of the interconnected-ness of our world.

The work at the bank itself has been fantastic. It’s been an amazing learning process working with the most brilliant economists and econometricians that Armenia has to offer. I have had the chance to go to several conferences where we had finance chairs and economists from the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, and various universities across the world deliver presentations on the most cutting edge developments on economic policy and econometric modeling. My work over the summer has led to the development of a working paper where I analyze how indirect effects of oil price shocks outweigh the direct farhaneffects for Armenia. This actually has far reaching implications because it means that central banks ought to view a good chunk of oil-importing small open economies (which the majority of developing nations are) as oil-exporters when it comes to combating fluctuations if they have strong trade linkages to oil-exporters. This sort of insight can change the way governments from these countries pursue trade policies and respond to adverse shocks around the world to better safeguard against global crises, benefiting the lives of their citizens.

All in all, if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it any other way. My final presentation is on the 25th, after which I’ll be mostly concluded with my work here. Currently doing my best to relish these last few days!

I’ve attached a picture of me on horseback riding outside the town of Ijevan

I look forward to catching up in the Fall!

Sincerely,
Farhan Javed

(And of course, if this spurs you to want to create other experiences like this for future students, please email me at michael.weishan@fdrfoundation.org as we TRULY need your financial support to continue this program. M)

 




Cynthia Koch To Join FDR Foundation as Historian in Residence and Director of History Programming

We are ever so DEE-lighted to announce that Dr. Cynthia Koch, the past director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park, will be joining the Foundation as Historian in Residence and Director of History Programming.koch
Cynthia’s distinguished academic record (below) speaks for itself. What I would like to add is that working with Cynthia has been truly a delight. I met Cynthia at almost the very beginning of our quest at the FDR Suite, when on a lark I called the FDR Library and boldly asked to speak to the director. I was eager to let the Library know of our new endeavor, but I wasn’t really expecting her to take my call. Instead, after I announced myself, her secretary put me right through, with the note “it’s pronounced COOK, not KOCH. Suitably prepared, I offered, “Director Koch, thank you for taking the time to speak with me,” in what I hoped was my best professional voice. “Oh,” she answered “it’s always a pleasure to meet another FDR fan, and it’s Cynthia, please.” She had me right there with her friendly, no-pretense spirit, and through all the ensuing research requests and demands on her time, Cynthia was never anything but hugely patient and helpful. Now, with her retirement from service with the National Archives, she has once again showed great kindness and dedication to the FDR cause by agreeing to become our historian in residence.

Cynthia will in fact be “in residence” though still living near Hyde Park, New York. Several times a year she will occupy the Suite, conducting programs for undergraduates and alumni, making Adams the very first house to have its own presidential historian. But even more importantly, Cynthia will become the director of history programming for the extensive upcoming list of Foundation events scheduled the 2016–2018 academic years, in particular with the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this December; the year-long celebration of the 85th anniversary of the Good Neighbor Policy in 2017; and the 120th anniversary of the Spanish American War in 2018. She looks forward this fall to offering programming that explores the political legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt in light of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

Cynthia’s appointment to the Foundation, which comes with a dual appointment to Harvard as a member of the Adams House Senior Common Room, begins July 1.

Welcome aboard, Cynthia!

 

Cynthia M. Koch received her B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She was the Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park (1999–2011), and has been on special detail for the National Archives and Records Administration for the past five years. During 2013–2016 she served as Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, where she taught courses on the Roosevelts as well as public history. Cynthia has also served as associate director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture, and Community, an international leadership group of scholars, political leaders, and shapers of public opinion, convened by the University of Pennsylvania; executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; and director of Old Barracks Museum, a Revolutionary war site in Trenton, New Jersey. She is the author and editor of works on Roosevelt, the presidential library, culture wars, and scholarship in history museums, including “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Sea: From the Atlantic to the Pacific”; “Portugal, the Azores, and the United States in the Roosevelt Years”; and “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Short Biography” in the proceedings of three conferences on Franklin D. Roosevelt held in the Azores (Fórum Açoriano Franklin D. Roosevelt) by the Luso American Foundation (2008, 2010, 2012). Also “Franklin Roosevelt’s Dutchness: At Home in the Hudson Valley,” in Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture; “Roosevelt and His Library,” a special anniversary issue of Prologue—Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration; and FDR: A Life in Pictures. Most recently she reviewed Roger Daniels’s new biography, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal for Indiana Magazine of History (forthcoming, September). Other publications include “The Contest for American Culture Revisited,” an update of “The Contest For American Culture: A Leadership Case Study on the NEA and NEH Funding Crisis,” a chapter for Funding Challenges and Successes in Arts Education, Siu Challons-Lipton and Richard Emanuel, editors (Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishing, forthcoming); and “What About a Jobs Program”? Huffington Post, June 15, 2015,

 

The Lampoon As Social History

Not to give our neighbors in the castle too much credit, but there is some interesting history to be learned from period pages of the Harvard Lampoon, especially when it comes to determining the mores of FDR’s Harvard. Take the image below, for example,  one that is particularly relevant for today as it mirrors a problem soon to be faced by the new Smith Center that the University is building in Holyoke Center. The Harvard Union was the first attempt to establish a place where alumni and students could co-mingle, and it was a hugely expensive flop, for the very reason depicted below: it, like all of Cambridge, was dry. The only liquor available was at private clubs, which is one of the main reasons that final clubs were (and are) popular today: they served booze.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 11.39.54 AM

Click on this and any of the other images to enlarge.

The next image took me a while to figure out. The key is that the proctor from the floor below is the same character entering the door of the piano-playing student in the first panel. He’s playing, piano dolce, “Babbie Waltzes.” (Hear the tune HERE on a wax-cylinder recording.)  Also note the time. Apparently 10PM was the cut-off for loud noise in individual suites, so to take revenge on the proctor for reprimanding him him the night before, the next day “Sporter” arranges for a little concert with his friends. The music starts with “Honey, Don’t Get Me Wrong” a forgotten ragtime tune of the day, and ends with “Up the Street,” a march still played by the University Band. What caught my eye was the gas lamp on the proctor’s desk. These lamps were attached by rubber “extension tubes” to either a wall or ceiling gas outlet. Frankly, it’s amazing that the whole place didn’t burn down — or explode — many times over. While electricity was available in certain deluxe suites like FDR’s, electrical outlets wouldn’t be invented for several more years.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 11.47.18 AM copyWhat’s interesting about the next panel is not the joke —it’s a play on grub (food) and grub (caterpillar) — but rather something that is almost forgotten today. Those lines above the Square aren’t meant to indicate clouds, they are telegraph, telephone and electrical lines. In 1900, competing companies ran their own wire to each client, so a single large building might have hundreds of wires running to it from all directions. This tangle persisted until the 1930s, when individual concerns were absorbed into larger entities and regulation of utilities became the norm.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 11.51.43 AM copyHere’s a photographic view, looking the other way, that better reveals this crazy-maze of wires. That’s John the Orangeman on the cart, btw, heading for a Harvard rally. (If you don’t know about John, by all means click the previous link as he is critical to the FDR Suite story.)

parade

The panel below explains the grub joke: it shows the interior of Memorial Hall, where most of the undergraduates ate. Notice the gawking guests in the balcony, which was open to the public and used as a viewing gallery by the locals — a perfect spot  for a chaperoned young lady to get an overview of prospective suitors to invite to her next “at home” day.

memhallThis last is one of my favorites, not just because of the great drawing style of S. A. Weldon, a classmate of FDR’s, but rather as it shows just how luxurious life in the Gold Coast actually was. No smelly gas lamps here. There is an electric desk lamp (which had to be plugged into the overhead fixture each time it was turned on, which meant gas or kerosene was still the norm) as well an assortment of comfortable furniture, walls and shelves chock-a-block with personal mementos, even velvet portieres on the door. And of course our boy under the desk has just come up from a dip in Claverly’s “tank,” the first of what would be a succession of ever larger private swimming baths on the Gold Coast. Considering how little we knew about this period in Harvard’s history when we started, it’s always reassuring when pictures like this come along that show many of the very same objects in the FDR Suite today — a gratifying indication that our representation of Gilded Age life at Harvard is reasonably on track.

Claverly Pool copy

Like what you’ve been reading? Support us by donating to the Foundation. It’s quick, safe and easy.



When Reason Trumped Politics: The Remarkable Political Partnership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wendell L. Willkie

As the American people nervously watch this year’s presidential campaign descend into a rant of name calling and outright crudity that would be inappropriate in a saloon, it might be wise to pause and look back 75 years to a remarkable partnership between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wendell L. Willkie, opposing candidates in the 1940 election. Though the race was boisterous and equally contentious — FDR was running for an unprecedented third term to the horror of the Republican Party — each candidate managed to wage a vigorous campaign that kept sight of a shared common goal: the betterment of America. Even more importantly, their cooperation during that election year and in the years that followed likely prevented the collapse of Great Britain and provided America with its greatest fighting ally against the forces of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

This relationship is all the more remarkable considering….read more

FDR Foundation Launches The Creative Citizenship Project

Today, with grim predictions for climate change appearing almost daily, the word “resilient” occurs again and again: utility infrastructure must upgraded to be storm “resilient;” sea barriers need to be raised to make them more “resilient” to flooding; new more “resilient” plant cultivars must be created to survive rising temperatures. While all these are laudable endeavors, they are at best reactive in nature, addressing the symptoms rather than the cause. The sad truth is that we can only go so far in strengthening the defenses of our physical world. In the end, the forces of nature will inevitably prevail, and humanity will have to adapt to whatever new reality is presented to us — or perish. We are not the masters of nature. We are, however, masters of ourselves, and it is here that true possibilities lie.

Seventy years ago, on the eve of WWII, FDR addressed the graduates of the University of Pennsylvania. It was an equally foreboding time, with war and despotism advancing across the world. Yet despite the coming darkness, 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.” He then concluded with perhaps one of the most powerful lines of his long presidency: ” We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

The FDR Foundation wishes to reawaken this call for “creative citizenship.” We want to renew the importance of transmitting to our youth “the best of our culture.” We hope to re-inspire the necessity of building the next generation for the future. And our help they will need, as the very skill sets required to confront the challenges ahead — creativity, innovation and imagination — are exactly those which we’ve allowed to lapse across wide swathes of our educational system.

In many places across the world, we train our device-deadened youth in much the same way as we did a half century ago, forcing them to learn a rote skill set to fill jobs in employment sectors that are rapidly disappearing under the combined threat of automation and climate change. We must do better, and we can, as we hold in our arsenal exactly tools we require: the arts and humanities. Study after study has proven that knowledge of history, fine arts, literature, music, and storytelling fosters a different way of looking at the world, a mode of vision that sees not only what is, but what could be.

And “what could be” is what we’ll need if we are to survive as a species. We’ll need visionary scientists who can imagine whole new sectors into existence; we’ll need inspiring politicians who can utilize arts and culture to unite diverse peoples; we’ll need creative business leaders who can harness new technologies in unforeseen ways. But most of all, we’ll need an educated, creative citizenry that can adapt to the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

This is true “resiliency.”

MDA Photo 2014In furtherance of these goals, we are dee-lighted to announce that Marcela Aviles Davison ’80 has come on board as our Director of Humanities Programming to help us launch the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Creative Citizenship Project. A first generation Mexican-American, Marcela Davison Avilés is an author and founder of The Chapultepec Group, an independent consulting and production company serving the arts and entertainment, non-profit, and selected consumer industry sectors. TCG clients include The Walt Disney Company, Pixar, Silicon Valley Ballet, FulmerWare LLP, Mariachi Sol de Mexico, the Mariachi Heritage Society and Aggrigator, a Silicon Valley start-up. She is also the co-founder of Camino Arts, an international Latino arts initiative. In addition to her work with Disney, her current portfolio includes a cross-border production of a new original opera on the life of Frida Kahlo. Marcela has worked with such well-known artists and organizations as Linda Ronstadt, Juan Gabriel, MarcoAntonio Solis, Aida Cuevas, Eugenia Leon, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Lila Downs, Joan Baez, Paquita la del Barrio, Mariachi Vargas, Mariachi Cobre, Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan, the San Francisco Symphony, the Smithsonian Institution and many others.

Marcela holds her B.A. in Fine Arts, cum laude, from Harvard College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.