By David M. Shribman Globe Correspondent September 02, 2016
We think of him as our longest-serving president, but oftentimes we forget that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, at the moment the United States needed it most, also our most experienced president, the one most accustomed to the burdens and opportunities of the office, most aware of its limits, and most conscious of its broader role in American civic life.
Through four successful elections, a dozen years on the job, his political power and perspective grew amid the cauldron of worldwide depression and armed conflict, with civilization itself seeming in the balance. But over that period, too, FDR’S personal powers of physical vigor and mental clarity were diminishing.
When he died he was only in his early 60s, the second half of those three-score years full of physical discomfort from midlife polio, relentless political warfare from New Deal battles, and the grinding stress of global challenges. It took a great and grave toll. At the end he may have been the world’s best-known 63-year old, but he also was perhaps its weakest and weariest.
Those last months of FDR are the topic of “The Final Battle,” the gripping story masterfully told by Joseph Lelyveld, former executive editor of The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winning author (“Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White”).
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