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.

Don’t Let the Music Stop

 

Many of you know that I spent 6 years with PBS, and there December was one constant wail: “This programming is made possible by viewers like you! Please support us!” (Which isn’t actually true, and they shouldn’t really be saying that anymore, as the programming is paid entirely by corporations these days, but that’s a whole other story.)  Ironically, all these years later, I find myself saying the same thing, except this time for the Foundation, where conversely it is entirely true: You my dear friends make everything happen, from providing scholarships, to paying the insurance, to creating educational programming, to building the website. Why, you even keep the music playing and the piano tuned!

So, won’t you perhaps think about helping us before the end of the year? We really need your support, as our coffers are at historically low levels.  Just click the donate button below, or send a check to:

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation
Adams House, Box 471
26 Plympton Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Thank you friends, and our best wishes for a happy, healthy new year!




Fall Fundraising Campaign

beyond tomorrow panel

The Beyond Tomorrow Saturday Conference Panel, with ethnobotanist Mark Ploitkin, opera singer Carla Dirlikov, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Ambassador Bruce Oreck

I must admit I am still a bit tired!

After a five months of preparation, and a three-day organizing marathon for the Beyond Tomorrow Conference this past weekend, we are now set to gear up for our next event on the 14th of November: Telling Our Story: The Power of Positive Narrative in US Politics and International Relations, which is poised to be just as important and informative.

This is all pretty amazing when you think that when we started 7 years ago we had nothing more than an empty room and a dream. Now today we’ve restored one of the most remarkable historical spaces at Harvard, we continue to expand our efforts to preserve and protect our historical collections, we maintain an active and effective scholarship program inspired by FDR, and we’re energetically working to create programming for students and alums that has real potential for making positive societal change.

But to continue all these great efforts, we REALLY need your help. Despite this amazing expansion of our mission, our circumstances remain the same. We’re still a tiny 501(c)3 charity that receives no funding from Harvard. And while it’s true we benefit mightily from our association with the University, sometimes that hurts us too, as people simply presume that because we’re located at Harvard, we’re somehow beneficiaries of Harvard largess and that we’re rolling in cash.

As the old country song goes: “That just ain’t so.” Everything we do, comes from people like you.

Maintaining all these activities is incredibly expensive, and once again our coffers are low.

So: would you consider helping us? One new method we’d like to encourage is a sustaining membership via credit card. Simply pick an amount, 20, 50 100 dollars and after you click the donation button, you’ll see an option to “make this recurring.” This type of sustaining support helps us manage our cash flow, allowing us to know what funds we can expend for our numerous programs. It’s really simple to do, and takes exactly one minute. Just click the button below and you’re off!




 

Of course, if you prefer to send a check, our mailing address is

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation
Adams House, Harvard College
26 Plympton Street, Box 471
Cambridge, MA 02138

I’ll be in touch soon with more details about our upcoming programming, as well as some wonderful historical tales I’ve been waiting to share. Thanks as always!

70 Years Ago Today

1945 last photoAt 1 PM on April 12, 70 years ago this afternoon, a tired and worn FDR sat in the living room of his Warm Springs, Georgia cottage, surrounded by friends and family. As he signed letters and documents, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, the artist who had early taken what would turn out to be the last ever photograph of FDR (left)  stood painting his portrait at an easel nearby. The conversation was lively, the atmosphere congenial. The president turned to Shoumatoff and reminded her that they had only fifteen minutes left in the session. Suddenly, he grabbed his head complaining of a sharp pain. The president had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage that would end his life in minutes. America’s longest serving president — the man who led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II — was dead.

1945 dead“Take a look at our present world. It is manifestly not Adolf Hitler’s world. The Thousand Year Reich had a ghastly run of a dozen years. Nor is it the world of Lenin and Stalin. The Communist dream turned out to be a political, economic, and moral nightmare. Nor is it Churchill’s world. He was a great war leader, but he was the son of empire, and empires have faded into oblivion. Our world today is Roosevelt’s world.”

Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Adams House ‘38

As we enjoy this Sunday afternoon, let us take a moment to give thanks to a man who gave his life in crafting the freedoms and privileges we enjoy today.