I Dare Say – Study in success (9-6-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 6, 1941)



Study in success

By Florence Fisher Parry

The President’s Labor Day address reassured me. He said:

In some future America, some future President…

But for the present, there is no denying that the dynasty in power is making itself felt. It offers a supreme example of how opportunity begets opportunity, success begets success.

The presence of our First Lady in Pittsburgh served to remind us again of the growing influence of this remarkable woman. It is said that when, years ago, a newspaper syndicate telephoned her and offered her a daily column to write, she listened attentively and then replied:

Very well. When do I start?

“My Day” began as a short and simple dairy without comment. Its whole interest lay in its recital of the daily doings of a First Lady. Except that the White House offered a more expansive opportunity. “My Day” was little different from the kind of factual record that you or I might keep as a sort of memory reference. For a long time, no mention of the President or his activities appeared in it. It was purely a woman’s page contribution.

It has become one of the most potent (if not THE most potent) instruments of New Deal propaganda. Its author has become the biggest woman moneymaker in America. She has the widest reading public of any woman in the world. She is the most prolific magazine contributor on earth. Far from “neglecting” her family for outside activities, she has advanced the interests and importance and earning capacity of every single one of them.

An excerpt from The Mitchell Index (Neb.) might point a pertinent proof of this:

Former Chief Justice Hughes has a grandson in the Army, who has been ten years in business. He is a private.

General Pershing has a son in the Army, graduate of a military school. He is a private.

Henry Ford III, son of the President of Ford Motors, is in the Army. He is a private.

The son of John D. Rockefeller, a business executive, is in the Army. He is a private.

James Roosevelt, eldest son of the President, motion picture producer, is in the service. He is a captain in the Marines.

Elliott Roosevelt, second son of the President, radio commentator, is in the service. He is a captain of aviation.

F. D. Roosevelt Jr., third son of the President, no vocation given, is in the service. He is a captain of Naval Reserves.

John Roosevelt, youngest son of the President, department store clerk, is in the service. He is a lieutenant in the Naval Supply Corps.

Mrs. Roosevelt writes:

Today, the boys in a ‘gob’ uniform or the boy in khaki without any stripes may be your boy or mine.

He may be one of our boys, Mrs. Roosevelt, but apparently not one of yours.

The magic-workers

As a study in success, the Roosevelt dynasty has no parallel. There have been single achievements in this field, but no record anywhere to be found of a family whose every member has so signally benefited by the place prepared for it by fortuitous circumstances. Search the world today and there is no personage whose aura embraces so benignantly the circle of his own family.

Crude critics might complain that his ability to fatten upon general misfortune is a deplorable thing, bespeaking a strange, blithe callousness; but in all fairness I must advance my own contention that this is not the case at all.

I look upon Eleanor Roosevelt as a phenomenon in good temper. She is simply incapable of that deep racking concern which makes most of us miserable when we contemplate our own and others’ woes. By no stretch of the wildest imagination can we picture our First Lady tossing sleepless in her bed over the plight of the world. The mystic power of drawing a veil between it and her is manifest in her every action. By virtue of this gift, she is relieved of the slightest misgiving or doubt; hence her remarkable capacity of ignoring criticism. Unpleasantness simply doesn’t exist for her. The placards of her critics at the airport the other day may have seemed realistic enough to their bearers, but I am sure that to Mrs. Roosevelt, they were simply blotto.

It must be wonderful to be that way. It would save so much wear and tear.

Supreme exception

I am trying to evoke one other example of success in whom this allergy to misgivings exists. I can think of no one. All others have paid a price of one kind or another in exchange for their success. Mrs. Roosevelt’s husband has been a success, but we need only took at his recent photographs, take count of the increasing necessity for him to retire to Hyde Park, or listen to the note of deep fatigue in his voice, to realize that however definitely he tosses his head or however smug his smile, some misgiving is eating at the core of him – he IS sensitive at bottom.

Success has already destroyed Mussolini, may destroy Hitler. It killed Napoleon, Wilson, Lincoln, all the great men good or evil. And as for the women whose names became a byword of success, not one escaped penalty. None but Mrs. Roosevelt. She has only thrived. She is impervious. Come hell or high water, she only remains smiling and serene.