Amy's Reviews > The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

The Defining Moment by Jonathan Alter
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's review
Jan 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: history, politics
Recommended to Amy by: Rockefeller Institute of Government New Deal Booklist
Read in December, 2008 , read count: 1

The FDR memorial in D.C. is one of my favorites; I love all the quotes carved into the stone, walking the visitor through the Roosevelt Administrations. Here are some quotes (and thoughts) accrued as I read The Defining Moment:

"Great leadership--like great theater--is often about the suspension of disbelief, the audience's surrender of questions, an embrace of hope and redemption (217)."

For me, the biggest take away in this book is how much of the New Deal was the work of FDR's cabinet and support staff. There's a line that if your dumb, you surround yourself with smart people, and if you're smart, you surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. FDR definitely surrounded himself with smart people, and according to Alter, FDR was always willing to listen to someone smarter tell him why his idea was no good.

FDR used patronage jobs as a carrot to motivate Congress in the 100 days, though the landmark New Deal legislations occurred later. FDR knew getting out of the Depression would require a combination of federal action and private, voluntary efforts.

"The irony is that Roosevelt's failure to whip the Depression quickly may have been a blessing for future generations" (274). The New Deal legacy included an idea of commonality and community, all the way down to the local level, that lasted for decades.

"If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships--the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace." --From the draft of an April 1945 speech.

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