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U.S. Opinions: New York

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Franklin Roosevelt’s vision is remembered in stone

From an editorial published in the New York Times on Oct. 25:

The upbeat tune identified with President Franklin D. Roosevelt – “Happy Days Are Here Again” – wafted across New York City’s waters at the recent dedication of the stunning FDR memorial honoring his vision of a world founded on four essential freedoms, articulated during World War II. A bell tolled as the four were cited – freedoms of speech and worship and freedoms from want and fear – at the new 4-acre park gleaming at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island.

The opening last Wednesday of the memorial park, sitting prow-like at the water’s edge, could not have been timelier. The United Nations, a postwar dream of Roosevelt’s, stands just across the river on Manhattan’s eastern shore, consumed with many of the problems – war, hunger, tyranny – that occupied all his days in the White House. The new skyscraper rising from ground zero can be seen punctuating the far southern cityscape as a resolute response to fear itself.

Spiritually, the Four Freedoms Park captures the highest hopes of the 32nd president in charting a course through global travail. Physically, architect Louis Kahn’s granite memorial employs brilliant simplicity across a sweeping vista to honor FDR in the state where, as governor, he honed New Deal ideas.

The park proposal gathered dust during the worst of the city’s fiscal times in the 1970s when there was no money to pay for such a memorial. As better days returned, local citizens groups and political leaders fought off commercial developers to protect Kahn’s design.

Among those gathered to celebrate Roosevelt’s leadership, none was more instrumental in making the memorial a reality than William vanden Heuvel, the former ambassador who tirelessly rallied donors and politicians in a seven-year campaign. The park, with its FDR bust and ingenious open-air room, is a stirring tribute to a leader whose ideas of freedom remain relevant well beyond his time.

Views in U.S. Opinions are not necessarily those of the Observer’s editorial board.
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