Today’s problems demand Eleanor Roosevelt’s solutions

By Mary Jo Binker 

November 15, 2019

In this Oct. 18, 1944, photo, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, left, buys a $100 war bond from Venus Ramey of Washington, D.C., crowned winner of the 1944 Miss America pageant, at the White House. (Herbert White/AP)

The 2020 election is just a year away, and the list of issues facing Americans is both lengthy and daunting: possible presidential impeachment, income inequality, immigration, global warming, increasingly invasive technology and crumbling infrastructure, just to name a few. Trying to build consensus to address any, let alone all, of these issues seems daunting, if not impossible, given the fears that surround our options and cloud our thinking. Fear may in fact be the greatest challenge we face.

That was the philosophy of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most significant first ladies. She, too, knew what it was like to live in trying times. Whether American democracy would survive the Great Depression, World War II, the McCarthyite Red Scare or the Cold War were real questions for her. She could not be sure of the outcome.

However, Roosevelt firmly believed that fear was a dangerous response to a world in constant turmoil. It robbed individuals and societies of their ability to speak out and act. It was the reason nations stockpiled armaments and closed their borders. Above all, fear destroyed the possibility of constructive action. “People who ‘view with alarm,’ ” she wrote at the end of her life, “never build anything.” Instead of giving into fear, Roosevelt pioneered a four-step process of citizen action that we can use today to combat contemporary problems.

Roosevelt’s process started with…

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Special Operations: More than a Television Show 11/18

About the Talk:

At the beginning of his presidency Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated that “The definite policy of the United States from now on is one opposed to armed intervention.” By the end of his third term the US was fully involved in World War II. While many factors, including the rise of the Nazi party and an attack on US soil, attributed to this shift, it shows the range of policies and situations with which US leaders must interact. Since WWII the US has created and utilized a wide range of elite organizations to accomplish missions, both in and out of combat. This chat will provide a general overview of the Special Operations community and personal lessons learned from an Army Special Forces leader.

About the Speaker:

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M. Trujillo is an Army Special Forces officer who recently served as the Deputy Commander – Operations, 75th Ranger Regiment and rotated with the Regimental Commander to serve as the commander of a Joint Task Force in Afghanistan.  Previously, Kevin commanded 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group and deployed twice to serve as the Commander, Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel / Resolute Support.  Additionally, he has worked as a Strategist and Strategic Planner at the US Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.  He has deployed numerous times to Afghanistan and Iraq serving as a Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha Commander, Special Forces Company Commander, Special Forces Battalion Commander and Future Operations Planner with the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan.  Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the Virginia Military Institute and a master’s degree in defense analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School.  His research interests include defense readiness, national security and special operations in South and Central Asian states.  

Monday, 11/18 7 PM FDR Suite SIGN UP required 

Reservations available starting 1 a.m. on Monday 11/11

Airstrikes, Service Members, and Intelligence 11/5

It was during a fireside chat that Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the American people that “we must have more ships, more guns, more plans—more of everything. We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” These words sparked debate over America’s role in the world. A debate that still rages in the United States today, and is intensified by rapid increases in the technology of war. 

About the Chat:

Over the last 80 years America’s conflict has changed, but one thing has stayed the same: Americans are fighting overseas and leaders have to make decisions that put service member’s lives at risk. A major factor of war that has changed is the autonomy of the tools available to commanders. The use of drones have increased the options available to US decision makers while increasing the moral ambiguity that accompanies any decision. The Law of War principles of military necessity, unnecessary suffering, proportionality, distinction, and honor are all affected by the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and leaders are forced to decide between sending Service Members or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles when executing many combat missions. 

During this chat Lieutenant Colonel Shelton will discuss the role of drones in joint military operations as well as his personal challenges and struggles as a leader in the United States Air Force. 

About the Speaker:

Previously, Lieutenant Colonel Shelton was the Chief of Command and Control Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance for the first Joint Special Operations Air Component at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He has served in a variety of leadership positions including qualifications as an E-3 air battle manager instructor/evaluator, Chief Weapons and Tactics, Chief Standardization and Evaluations, Assistant Director of Operations, Director of Operations, and Director Joint Special Operations Air Detachment. Adam has flown in and deployed to numerous contingency operations some of which include Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Unified Protector, New Dawn, and Inherent Resolve. Adam holds a bachelor’s degree in computer management and information systems from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and two master’s degrees: military operational art from Air Command and Staff College and strategic studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff at the Naval War College. His research interests include multi-domain joint military operations, combatant command authorities/decision making, interagency and DOD integration, and DOD organizational design and adaptations.

Tuesday, 11/05 7 PM FDR Suite SIGN UP required 

Reservations available starting 1 a.m. on Monday 10/28 


Five Years to Institute Change 10/23

“I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

About the Chat: 

FDR made the above challenge to a group of advocates lobbying the him for change. Historians do not agree on the exact context in which this was said, but the message is clear. Everyone is responsible for advocating for change they want to see. 

Throughout her career Allyson Maynard-Gibson has embodied this challenge laid out by FDR. As a long-time advocate for women and children she has been at the forefront of social change. As financial services minister and attorney general of the Bahamas she was faced with systemic problems while in a position to encourage elected peers and leaders to institute sweeping reform. 

About the Speaker:


Allyson MaynardGibson served twice as attorney general and minister of legal affairs of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Ms. MaynardGibson also served in the Bahamian Parliament, was the country’s first minister of financial services and investments, and is past president of the International Women’s Forum and the Leadership Foundation.  




Wednesday, 10/23 7 PM FDR Suite SIGN UP required 

Reservations available starting 1 a.m. on Monday 10/14 

How to Impact Change While Following Orders 10/22

“The country needs — and, unless I mistake its temper — the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

About the Chat: 

FDR’s quote above was a call to the American people to support systematic change to combat the Great Depression, but his words can be applied to leadership at every level in many situations. He challenged people to take action when the path forward was not clear. Meeting this challenge is  important in the military, in government, in start-ups, and the rest of the professional world.  

One aspect of organizations that make meeting FDR’s challenge difficult is a consistent institutional dilemma: How does one lead, while following? How do you influence change, and conduct the experimentation FDR demanded while executing the strategic direction outlined by your boss, your company’s board, or your commanding officer? 

Come hear Commander Jason Wells, US Naval Flight Officer, discuss stories and lessons about the challenges that accompany leading and following as a member of a mission driven organization, such as the United States Navy. 

About the Speaker:

Commander Jason Wells is a Naval Flight Officer who was recently the Aviation Officer Community Manager at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, responsible for the personnel policies governing Aviation force structure.  Previously, he commanded Special Projects Patrol Squadron Two, flying in Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as in other operations throughout Africa and the Pacific.  He also served as the Operations Officer of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One, conducting Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations worldwide and flew in the NATO campaign over Libya during Operation Unified Protector. Has authored two DoD Electronic Warfare Assessments characterizing the strengths and weaknesses of Service capabilities throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.  Jason holds a master’s degree in international business from the University of Maryland, where he studied in Shanghai, and postgraduate research in Space Systems and Computer Science from the Naval Post Graduate School.  His research interests include strategic decision-making, force structure implications on strategy development, and mechanisms to characterize the constraints on national security and national defense strategies.

Tuesday, 10/22 7 PM FDR Suite SIGN UP required 

Reservations available starting 1 a.m. on Monday 10/14