Trude W. Lash, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., our esteemed and justly famous Co-Chair persons;
My friend and colleague in many political battles, or at least skirmishes, Bill vanden Heuvel;
My friend from college days at Yale and thereafter, Cy Vance;
My academic friend and valued religious adviser, Father Hesburg; and
My most beloved friend, and the most valuable and wise counselor of my whole life, "The best and brightest" woman of her generation, the mother of five remarkable children and inspiration for them and now seven (and counting) Grandchildren, -- Eunice Kennedy
Ladies and Gentlemen: --
In 1936 I cast my first vote in a Presidential election. It was cast for FDR.
Twice again I did the same thing. In those days it was easy to make the right choice.
I am a product of the New Deal era, and happy to believe that future historians will agree that FDR and my brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy, are the two most significant Presidents of the 20th Century. Both of them captured the spirit and allegiance of the American people. Both of them were respected, even beloved, by millions and millions world-wide! Both of them made us proud to be American citizens. Neither before nor since them have all of us been so optimistic about the future of our country.
Today, however, is a day I shall never forget. To receive an award bearing the name of Franklin D. Roosevelt, given to me by the Trustees of The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, is the honor of a lifetime. I extend my thanks to everyone who played a part in making this day a reality for me.
When Franklin Roosevelt spoke about "freedom from want" he was thinking, I believe, about the "want for food" for those physically hungry, about the want for jobs for those unemployed, the want for housing, the need we all have for a place we can call home.
Food, Jobs, and Housing -- Roosevelt met those needs of the American people in the decade 1930 to 1940, and beyond. He met the basic needs of our nation suffering from the worst economic Depression of this Century. Roosevelt truly created the America able to rescue Great Britain and France and Italy and Spain, the Nordic Countries and the Low Countries, from the worst tyrant in the 1,500 year history of European civilization. In doing so, he established our country as the undisputed leader of the free world.
Nowadays our country is challenged in many new ways, not just European, but truly global, not militaristic, thank God, but societal. Global travel and global communications have made every man, woman and child, everywhere, your neighbor and mine. We watch them and their tragedies on TV every night. Even within the USA we watch the killing from nightly warfare in our cities.
Three times as many American citizens will be "killed in action" this year in Washington, D.C. as we lost in the famous "Gulf War". We and our allies spent billions to free that tiny country, Kuwait, a hundred times more than we spend to rid the capital of our nation from drugs, murder, firearms, homeless people, sub-standard schools and unemployment.
George Washington must be spinning in his grave as he witnesses from on high what has happened to the city bearing his name!
What are we doing about the global realities and the mayhem and murder in our cities? Instead of talk, we need NAFTA passed by Congress and signed by the President. We don't need Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan.
We need national volunteer service ten times the size of the Peace Corps, and we need to quadruple the Peace Corps at the same time. There is no way to give more service and get more results for less money than by the Peace Corps.
Similar expansion is needed for Head Start, the Job Corps, Legal Services for the Poor, and Community Action. We have no need to re-invent the wheel. We need only expand what already works well for our citizens and for the people of the world!
So, let's go to work, in the Roosevelt style and with the Roosevelt elan. FDR was truly "The Happy Warrior", a title given him by his contemporaries, a title earned by his optimistic spirit and by his courage.
Let us try to be like him. Maybe, even we can contribute to the making of a New Deal for the 21st Century.