Category Archives: Domestic Policy

Opening Remarks, CORO Neighborhood Leadership Program

On March 12, 2013 Jonathan Fanton remarked on the mission and values of the CORO Neighborhood Leadership Program, which trains individuals working in various New York City organizations to build networks and attain the skills necessary to strengthen local neighborhoods. For more information on CORO, click here.

CORO Leadership
March 12, 2013

1). It is a pleasure to welcome you to the home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, now the Hunter College Roosevelt Institute of Public Policy.

There are actually two houses, built by Franklin’s mother Sara in 1908 who gave one to Eleanor and Franklin as a wedding gift.

Roosevelt heard of his election to the Presidency in this house and later put together his cabinet and formulated the early New Deal right here.

He understood the importance of community development. Hear his words in a 1933 Fireside Chat talking about employment creation and economic development. Our program “will succeed if our people understand it — in the big industries, in the little shops, in the great cities and … small villages. There is nothing complicated about it and there is nothing particularly new in the principle. It goes back to the basic idea of society and of the nation itself that people acting in a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could even hope to bring about.”

He and Eleanor would be pleased that a new generation of leaders dedicated to making New York City a pathway of opportunity for all gathers here to reflect on your Fellowship experience.

I was reading over your short bios  and am impressed with the work you are doing all over the city and the many creative projects underway. And a special welcome to Felicia from Union Square Partnership.

2). As you know, Rob and I worked together at the Union Square Local Development Corporation and BID for many years and I learned a lot from him, lessons that inspired the MacArthur Foundation’s substantial Investment in reviving Chicago’s poorest but promising neighborhoods.

MacArthur joined with other foundations and financial institutions to form The National Community for Development Initiative now called Living Cities which worked with LISC and Enterprise in 23 cities across the country.  What we did in Chicago was studied and often replicated across the country.

They called it the Chicago Model.  But I called it the 14th Street Union Square Model because the key elements came from my work with Rob.

3). The transformation of Union Square from a “needle park” haven for drug dealers to a family friendly gathering place for recreation and relaxation, food and fun, commerce and conversation is a thrilling story.

Looking back here are some of the key drivers for change, factors you will recognize in your own neighborhoods.

Institutional leadership matters, in our case the largest business employer Con Ed and the most significant institution, The New School.  Presidents Charles Luce and Jack Everett and their staffs quickly recruited neighborhood leaders and businesses to help.

Getting the footprint right is important, in our case anchored by Union Square and several blocks either way on 14th Street formed a natural neighborhood.

Achieving some early victories to show that improvement is possible if we work together, in our case holding events in Union Square Park for children and families to show that it was a clean and safe place to come and promoting new business openings through ribbon-cutting events to broadcast that Union Square was open for business.

Forging an alliance with city agencies is critical, in our case the 4 precincts that come together in the area, the Parks Department, City Planning.  The sensible zoning changes in the mid 1990’s were critical to economic development at the right scale. Along the way we got a lot of help from people like Henry Stern and Joe Rose.

Getting the balance right between economic development and preservation of the community and its values is critical.  Also having a plan, block by block, building by building is essential even as a base line from which reality often departed.

Vision is critical.  Mid-way in my 17 years as co-chair we stopped to clarify what our values and characteristics were.  From that exercise came, for example, the concept of diversity — residential, commercial, institutional, the arts, a mix of people by class, race and age, a transportation hub where people from all over the city meet and mix.

And from the vision came a consensus about the future.  For all the high theory about community development what matters most are the people.  We were neighbors and colleagues but more importantly friends.  A couple of years ago Rob organized a 30th reunion of the Local Development Corporation with an amazing turn out, spirits that surpassed high school and college reunions. And a great appreciation to Rob for his leadership which was indispensable for all we accomplished. He brought the best out in all of us, built our commitment, lifted our spirits, bridged differences, made things happen.

A final thought:  time and patience is essential and, vigilance, so progress achieved is maintained.  The job is never done.  A healthy community is resilient, able to absorb adversity, grasp opportunity and embrace change.

You are all younger than I by some years.  Looking back over my career I can say my work with the Union Square – 14th Street Local Development Corporation at BID ranks at the top of what gives me a feeling of pride and satisfaction.  So I salute you for the work you are doing to make our city stronger one neighborhood at a time – a city that is more just and human with opportunity for all.

Opening Remarks at “Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century”

On March 7-8, 2013, The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute hosted an academic conference on the Eisenhower presidency entitled, “Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.” Panels consisting of notable Eisenhower biographers and scholars examined several aspects of the Eisenhower Administration’s foreign and domestic policy, including civil rights, science, highway development, Middle East policy, and nuclear proliferation. Jonathan Fanton set the stage for the second day of the academic conference by remarking on Eisenhower, and his connection to Franklin Roosevelt, below. For more information on “Ike Reconsidered,” click here.

FDR and Eisenhower

I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the second day of our conference on “Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.”

Among the lessons we will explore today is the importance of balance as a strategy for getting things done, keeping expectations in line with real possibilities, making choices in the present that enhance future opportunities.

We gather in the homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. Sara built these twin townhouses and gave one to Franklin and Eleanor as a wedding gift in 1908.

This is where the Roosevelts raised their family, Franklin began his law career, recovered from polio, and planned his re-entry into public life as Governor. And it was upstairs in the second floor parlor by the fireplace that he made his first address to the nation as President-elect on November 9, 1932 on NBC radio.

When you walk around be sure to visit FDR’s study, also on the second floor, where the New Deal was shaped, Cabinet secretaries like Frances Perkins recruited, and commitments made to programs like Social Security.

The houses came to Hunter in 1942 after Sara’s death, made possible by an initial gift from Franklin and Eleanor. The houses were an interfaith and student center from then until 1992 when they closed in disrepair.

Thanks to the vision and determination of Hunter President Jennifer Raab, the Roosevelt Houses were renovated three years ago and now host the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. The Institute offers two undergraduate programs, one in Public Policy and the other in Human Rights. And it sponsors a robust program of lectures, conferences and discussions of important domestic and international issues meant to bring scholars and policy makers together with the general public.

Our conference last year on the domestic accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency yielded practical lessons for those in power today about how to make Washington work. And we hope that this reconsideration of the Eisenhower presidency will offer us another model for leadership.
While our conference focuses on Dwight Eisenhower, it seems appropriate to reflect for a moment on the relationship between Eisenhower and FDR.  Ike, after all, achieved military fame under Roosevelt, opening a path to the White House that would have otherwise been unlikely. Even though Eisenhower did not place Roosevelt among the presidents he most admired, we can identify certain parallels between them.

Hear the President’s words at a rally in the public square in Cleveland.

“… what has your Government been doing? In virtually every area of human concern, it is moving forward.  Government has had a heart as well as a head. … I hope you will not take it that I am boasting. There will never be room for boasting … until there is not a single needy person left in the United States, when distress and disease have been eliminated. I am talking about progress …  Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million Americans – unemployment compensation to an additional 4 million Americans. Our health program has been greatly improved…. Research into the causes of crippling and killing diseases has been markedly stepped up. The minimum wage has been increased, even though my recommendation for its wider coverage was not acted on in the Congress…”

When that quote started, I thought I was listening to Franklin Roosevelt. Only near the end did I recognize Dwight Eisenhower. His embrace of core New Deal programs gave them bipartisan legitimacy, strengthening the foundation for government’s responsibility for human security and opportunity.

Yet there was no special warmth between the two men, perhaps the result of something that happened early in World War II.  Eisenhower had risen very quickly to high rank, due to his own gifts as a military planner and the sponsorship of General George Marshall.  Ike was placed in command of the first major Allied amphibious operation of the war, the invasion of North Africa, then under Vichy French control.  The landings had gone about as well as could be hoped, and he also had shown skill in his dealings with the various French factions.

But his initial performance as a commander of troops in the field had been lackluster.  He had failed to prevent German reinforcements to Tunisia and American troops suffered a humiliating defeat in early 1943 at Kasserine Pass.  There were real doubts in Washington and London about whether Eisenhower had the “right stuff” to run major military operations.

Roosevelt let Eisenhower dangle for a while, refusing to promote him or confirm that he would command the upcoming invasion of Sicily.  The President wanted to see more.  Though his caution was rational, Eisenhower could not have been happy about it.  In the end, of course, Allied forces prevailed in North Africa, and the American troops improved quickly.  But a coolness may have lingered.

Ike also was not happy about some of the political decisions Roosevelt made.  Roosevelt decided to demand the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan.  Although Eisenhower understood that the Nazi regime had to be eradicated root-and-branch, he also believed that the announcement of the policy would make German troops fight harder and cost more American lives.

But no doubt, Eisenhower witnessed in Roosevelt a political master at work.  We can reasonably conclude that some of the lessons influenced Ike’s own leadership style.  Consider his own unpleasant experience in North Africa.  Roosevelt showed that a president must set high performance expectations for his key subordinates – the fate of his administration, and the nation, depend on it.  Being president requires a measure of ruthlessness.  FDR had it, and Eisenhower experienced it.

FDR also recognized the importance of freedom of action.  As Andrew Polsky points out in his recent book, Elusive Victories, this was the cornerstone of Roosevelt’s wartime leadership.  He made a point of holding meetings with his military chiefs at which no notes were taken so he could backtrack when necessary and leave no fingerprints on controversial decisions.  He had an elaborate vision for the postwar world, but he never laid it out in a speech and always left room to adjust to new international conditions along the way.  He carefully juggled domestic constituencies ranging from conservative Southern Democrats to organized labor to big business.

Eisenhower, too, would nurture his freedom of action when he became president.  The “hidden hand” leadership style that Fred Greenstein has described was carefully calibrated to help Ike avoid the kinds of public stands and commitments that leave a president trapped, without options.  While this style, to the public, can appear to lack boldness and assertiveness, it is also one that stirs less opposition, alienates fewer political allies, and enables political leaders get things done.

It is very appropriate, then, that we gather in the home of one distinguished chief executive to examine what we can learn today about another.  Rarely do we think of Roosevelt and Eisenhower together.  Certainly they were not friends.  But Eisenhower spent the crucial war years observing a political master, and he absorbed some useful lessons along the way.

Either Roosevelt or Eisenhower could have concluded “We live in a shrunken world, a world in which oceans are crossed in hours, a world in which a simple minded despotism menaces the scattered freedoms of scores of struggling independent nations. … There can be no enduring peace for any nation while other nations suffer privation, oppression, and a sense of injustice and despair. In our modern world, it is madness to suppose that there could be an island of tranquility and prosperity in a sea of wretchedness and frustration.” So said Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to the Republican Convention.


This conference is a partnership between Hunter College’s Roosevelt House and the Eisenhower Foundation whose President, Dan Sharp, first proposed it. After Dan offers his perspective, Professor Andrew Polsky will frame the day’s program. Professor Polsky did a magnificent job in organizing the conference and recruiting our outstanding group of panelists to take a critical look at the Eisenhower legacy. Julia Kohn, Director of our Public Policy Program and Ellen Murray, our Research Associate, and Roosevelt House Deputy Director, Fay Rosenfeld, deserve our thanks for putting this conference together.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dan Sharp.

Ira Katznelson, “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time”

On March 4, 2013 Jonathan Fanton introduced Professor Ira Katznelson who discussed his new book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, with Professor David Nasaw. These two distinguished scholars spoke on a wide range of issues including the development and limitations of the American social welfare state, U.S. foreign policy, the role of Congress in furthering social reform, and the nature of liberal democracy in the mid-twentieth century. The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute hosted this event. For more information on The Roosevelt House, click here.


March 4, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to our discussion on Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.

How appropriate we gather today, the 80th anniversary of FDR’s first inaugural address. Hear his words: “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly … let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Fear Itself tells a fresh story about the development and influence of the New Deal both at home and abroad. The New Deal is, in Katznelson’s words, a “rejuvenating triumph” in its reaffirmation of representative democracy and its ability to create more expansive notions of citizenship rights. Yet, as he notes, representative democracy also meant that progressive forces often had to compromise with their more reactionary, often southern, counterparts who hoped to maintain racial discrimination within New Deal legislation, perpetuate the segregation of public places, and offer American support to repressive anticommunist regimes.

In looking at Congress’s – not just FDR’s – role in shaping the New Deal, Professor Katznelson offers a fine-grained analysis that allows us to see the inner-workings of American politics.  “Of the New Deal’s many achievements,” he writes, “none was more important than the demonstration that liberal democracy, a political system with a legislature at its heart, could govern effectively in the face of great danger.” Both domestic and international.

FDR understood the process of democracy could be frustrating, involve compromises, produce uncertainty, enable reactionary forces bent on resisting change.

Hear his words at the Democratic Victory Dinner on March 4, 1937:

“My great ambition…is to leave my successor… a Nation which has thus proved that the democratic form and methods of national government can and will succeed…Democracy in many lands has failed for the time being to meet human needs. People have become so fed up with futile debate and party bickerings over methods that they have been willing to surrender democratic processes and principles in order to get things done. They have forgotten the lessons of history that the ultimate failures of dictatorships cost humanity far more than any temporary failures of democracy…In the United States democracy has not yet failed and does not need to fail. And we propose not to let it fail…Nevertheless, I cannot tell you with complete candor that in these past few years democracy in the United States has fully succeeded. Nor can I tell you, … just where American democracy is headed … . I can only hope.”

Both FDR and Ira Katznelson see democratic progress and reform as a continuous process in search of a more just, fair and tolerant society.

Professor Katznelson, the Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia and President of the Social Science Research Council, is a distinguished scholar who has written extensively on American politics, political theory, race, class formation, urban affairs, social movements, European studies and more.

Among his books are: When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America and Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge after Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust.

Ira Katznelson and I made common cause thirty years ago to rebuild the New School’s Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. There I came to admire his capacity to listen, to appreciate complexity, to embrace intellectual puzzles, and to construct narratives that advance our understanding but also stimulate further discussion and debate. He is a master at putting public policy in historical perspective and I am pleased that he has just joined the Board of the Roosevelt House.

It is also my pleasure to introduce tonight’s moderator, Professor David Nasaw, the Arthur M. Schlesigner Jr. Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center. Professor Nasaw received his PhD from Columbia University, where he studied French intellectual history. But his scholarly work has focused on American History, publishing, most recently, award-winning biographies on William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Carnegie, and Joseph Kennedy – examinations of some of the most powerful and complex men in our nation’s history. He has been chair of the CUNY Center for the Humanities and is currently Chair of the Advisory Board for the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

Let me close with a passage Professor Katznelson quotes from Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution: we “are far enough from the Revolution to feel only fleetingly the passions that troubled the view of those who made it” but “we are… still close enough to be able to enter into and comprehend the spirit that brought it about.” That could just as well be said about those of us in the room that stand at about the same distance from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

It is a special honor to have these two distinguished historians here with us tonight to help us understand the competence, compromises, courage and complexity that characterized the New Deal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, David Nasaw and Ira Katznelson.

Robert Morgenthau and Bob Katzmann Introduction

On January 30, 2013Jonathan Fanton introduced Robert Katzmann of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for a discussion on immigration reform. The two sat down for a conversation with New York Times columnist Kirk Semple at The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute on what would have been Franklin Roosevelt’s 131st birthday. 

Justice for Immigrants

January 30, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special event: a conversation between Kirk Semple of the New York Times and former US Attorney Robert Morgenthau on Justice for Immigrants. In a moment, I will introduce Judge Robert Katzmann of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who will frame the issues and introduce our guests.

We are in the historic homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. The Roosevelts lived here from 1908 when Sara gave them number 49 as a wedding gift until they left for the White House in January 1933. The steady flow of visitors to these homes, the lively conversations on issues of the day, the trials of polio and the triumphant return to politics as Governor and President all shaped their world view. It was here where the New Deal was planned, cabinet officers like Frances Perkins recruited, commitments made to programs like Social Security.

What an honor to be in the presence of Robert Morgenthau who knew Franklin and Eleanor.

When Sara died in 1941, Franklin and Eleanor made it possible for Hunter to purchase the homes for an interfaith student center. But the house closed in disrepair in 1992 and remained boarded up until Hunter President Jennifer Raab had them restored and reopened as a Public Policy Institute in 2010. Central to the purpose of the Institute is to sponsor programs on critical issues of our time enabling the public to engage with scholars and policy makers.

Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that we will address Justice for Immigrants tonight. Hear Franklin’s words in October 1940 radio address to the Herald Tribune Forum. He spoke of how immigrants contributed to our country when he said:

“…These varied Americans with varied backgrounds are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. All of them are inheritors of the same stalwart tradition—a tradition of unusual enterprise, of adventurousness, of courage ‘to pull up stakes and git moving.’ That has been the great, compelling force in our history. Our continent, our hemisphere, has been populated by people who wanted a life better than the life they had previously known. They were willing to undergo all conceivable perils, all conceivable hardships, to achieve the better life. They were animated just as we are animated by this compelling force today. It is what makes us Americans…They built a system in which Government and people are one—a nation which is a partnership- and can continue as a partnership. That is our strength today… ”

President Roosevelt would have been proud to have appointed Robert Katzmann to the federal bench. He is a scholar and a practitioner, receiving his J.D. from Yale and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard where he studied with Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

At the time of his appointment in 1999 by President Clinton as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, he was the Walsh Professor of Government, Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, a Fellow and acting program director at Brookings,  and the President of the Governance Institute.  On September 1, he becomes Chief Judge of the Second Circuit.  He has published books on the Federal Trade Commission, on Transportation Policy for the Disabled, The Law Firm and the Public Good, on Congress and the Courts, and on his mentor, Senator Moynihan.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2007 he gave the Marden lecture at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York about the unmet needs of the immigrant poor. It was rich in evidence about how poorly immigrants facing deportation were treated by both administrative and judicial arms of our government. And it was a clarion call for reform.

A year later he convened a study group on immigrant deportation made up of 50 leading lawyers in private practice, leaders of immigrant service organizations, government officials and more. It commissioned a NY Immigrant Population Study which documented some shocking facts, for example, that 60% of detained immigrants do not have counsel by the time their cases are completed. Maybe that’s why our government expelled 1,150 immigrants every day last April. He will tell you more about the findings and the concrete remedies the study group recommended.

For Bob Katzmann immigrant rights are very personal. On accepting the Learned Hand medal from the Federal Bar Council last year, he said, “We are all shaped by our personal histories. As I reflect on my subject tonight, immigrant representation, my own family’s past no doubt plays a part. My father is a refugee from Nazi persecution, my mother the child of Russian immigrants. I can still hear the accents and voices of my own relatives, who escaped persecution, who wanted to become part of this great country, and who, through their toil and belief in the American dream, made this great nation even greater. When we work to secure adequate representation for immigrants, not only are we faithful to our own professional responsibilities, not only do we further the fair and effective administration of justice, but we also honor this nation’s immigrant experience.”

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Judge Robert Katzmann.


Opening Remarks, CUNY Institute for Education Policy Panel

On November 29, 2012 Jonathan Fanton opened a panel discussion hosted by the new and the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York UniversityThe panel examined the recent research into New York City’s high school open admissions program and marked the first in a series of talks leading up to the new institute’s formal launch in May 2013. The CUNY Institute for Education Policy will be based out of The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. 

CUNY Institute for Education Opening

November 29, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Franklin’s mother, Sara. Sara built these twin houses in 1907 and gave number 49 to Franklin and Eleanor as newlyweds. This was home base until they moved to the White House, the place where they raised their children, where Franklin recovered from polio in 1921, ran for Governor in 1928 and made his first address to the nation on November 9, 1932 on NBC radio. Following Sara’s death, the houses came to Hunter and served as an interfaith student center until 1992 when they closed in disrepair.

Thanks to the vision and determination of Hunter President Jennifer Raab, the Roosevelt Houses were renovated three years ago and now host Hunter’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. The Institute offers two undergraduate programs, one in Public Policy and the other in Human Rights and International Justice. It also offers a robust series of lectures, conferences and discussions of important domestic and international issues. And it supports faculty research.

Tonight, we gather with a distinguished panel of authors and scholars to discuss an important issue: the effects of New York City’s open enrollment policies on disadvantaged students. This is the topic of a forthcoming paper co-authored by members of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, of which I am chair, and New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy.  The Research Alliance conducts independent research on what is working and what is not in New York City schools. It seeks to make solid evidence, based on longitudinal studies, available to policy makers and the public.

Tonight’s event is sponsored by the CUNY Institute for Education Policy — a new, non-partisan center that will focus on the major issues and challenges confronting our nation’s public education system. The Institute, headed by Dr. David Steiner, is based at Roosevelt House and will have its formal launch conference in May. When fully developed, the Institute will provide a place for policy-makers, scholars, and educators to exchange initiatives and proposals, build an important research base for those debating nationally-important educational issues, and help turn good theory into good practice. The Institute also promises to offer visiting lectures, faculty seminars, and print and online publications that address a wide range of topics, including the effectiveness of past and present school accountability measures such as No Child Left Behind, the latest developments in teacher and administrative assessment techniques, alternatives to public schools such as charter and faith-based schools, and voucher programs, as well as recent research on child-centered learning models and differentiated instruction. It will also look at models for effective schools from other countries.

I am sure that Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that the CUNY Institute for Education Policy and Roosevelt House are collaborating to reverse some of these alarming trends. Hear Franklin’s words before the National Education Association in the summer of 1938:

“…There is probably a wider divergence today in the standard of education between the richest communities and the poorest communities than there was one hundred years ago; and it is, therefore, our immediate task to seek to close that gap—not in any way by decreasing the facilities of the richer communities but by extending aid to those less fortunate. We all know that if we do not close this gap it will continue to widen, for the best brains in the poor communities will either have no chance to develop or will migrate to those places where their ability will stand a better chance…

With those prescient words in mind, let me introduce Dean David Steiner, who will set the stage for the rest of our discussion tonight.  David Steiner received his BA and MA degrees at Balliol College, Oxford before earning a PhD in Political Science at Harvard. He has chaired the Boston University Education Policy Department, served as Director of Education at the National Endowment for the Arts and Commissioner of Education for the State of New York. Much of his work has focused on the preparation of teachers – a critical path to improving education in our country. As Commissioner he led New York’s successful application for Secretary Duncan’s “Race to the Top” competition which brought 700 million dollars to New York to implement a wide range of education reforms, including professional development and curriculum design support for Common Core Standards adoption, and a full redesign of teacher certification in NYS to put more emphasis on clinical training. Hunter College is fortunate to have him as our Dean of the School of Education and Director of this exciting new Institute.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome David Steiner.


BID Challenge Awards Remarks

BID Challenge Awards

On November 27, 2012 Jonathan Fanton recognized the New York City Business Improvement Districts which earned BID Challenge Grants from the city. The grants “encourage innovation and creativity in neighborhood development programs at Business Improvement Districts across the five boroughs.” For additional information, click here.

For additional information on the winners and Dr. Fanton’s role in selecting them, click here

I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to this occasion which recognizes the accomplishments of the innovative Business Improvement Districts which are winners of the first BID Challenge grants. It is my privilege to chair the selection committee which had the difficult job of choosing the winners from an extraordinary field of  applicants.

We gather in the houses of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. She built these twin townhouses in 1907 and gave number 49 to Eleanor and Franklin as a wedding gift. They lived here until moving to the White House in 1932. It was here they raised their 5 children, entertained guests like Frances Perkins and Mary McLeod Bethune, and where Franklin recovered from polio to return to political life in 1928 when he ran for Governor.

I hope you will look around the houses, see the spot by the parlor fireplace on the second floor where Franklin made his first address to the nation as President-elect, visit his study where the New Deal was planned, his Cabinet recruited. Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the Cabinet, recalled her recruitment in that room where she and FDR agreed to create the Social Security Program.

Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that we are gathered in their house to honor local initiative and neighborhood leaders. They understood the importance of community development. Hear Franklin’s words in a 1933 Fireside Chat talking about employment creation and economic development:

Our program “will succeed if our people understand it — in the big industries, in the little shops, in the great cities and … small villages. There is nothing complicated about it and there is nothing particularly new in the principle. It goes back to the basic idea of society and of the nation itself that people acting in a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could even hope to bring about.”

We are living in an era when people the world over are gravitating to cities. The percent of the US population that is urban has grown to 80.7% and around the world, the percent of humanity now living in cities is roughly 50%, up from 30%  60 years ago.

But people do not move to cities so much as they do to neighborhoods. That is the genius of the robust network of 67 Business Improvement Districts that make New York a great place to live and work. We know the names: Bedford- Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, 125th Street, Bayside Village, Forest Avenue Staten Island and Union Square where I was co-chair of the Local Development Corporation for 17 years making common cause with Rob Walsh.

I saw first-hand how neighborhood groups, businesses, institutions came together to fashion creative spaces, platforms for renewal but also for innovation and opportunity. Local initiative is the way of the future. Our world is undergoing a “Big Shift” from the familiar world of “push” where decisions come top-down to the world of “pull” in which people come together in self-forming networks to get the information they need to create new initiatives, tap new markets, provide services people really need and will use.

The BID Challenge Awards are a celebration of the Power of Pull, a world in which the aggregate energy of neighborhood groups is the engine which makes the larger city more competitive globally but all more just and humane with opportunity for all.

We are fortunate that the great work that Rob Walsh and his colleagues are accomplishing has a wise, caring and determined advocate one step from the Mayor. I have the pleasure of introducing Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Robert Steel. After a successful business career including 30 years at Goldman Sachs and service as Under-Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Bob Steel has applied his immense talent to supporting the local economy of New York’s diverse neighborhoods.

Since his appointment, the Deputy Mayor has had the opportunity to visit many of your neighborhoods with Commissioner Walsh, pounding the pavement in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Hub 3rd Avenue in the Bronx, and St. George, Staten Island, just to name a few – each time recognizing the great work of our Neighborhood Leaders and the organizations you represent.  Not only has he attracted the first Applied Science Campus to our great City, bolstering the growing technology sector, but he has also created the first Bank Advisory Council that is dedicated to helping new and small business secure loans, expand their customer base and thrive.  Through this work, he embodies what it means to be a Leader. Through his leadership he carries on the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt who is smiling down with approval.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Deputy Mayor Robert Steel.

Closing Remarks for “From Classroom to Career: Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce” Panel

On October 23, 2012 Jonathan Fanton, interim director of The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, made some closing remarks for a panel on the United States’s global educational competitiveness hosted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Closing Comments — Classroom to Career Forum

October 23, 2012

On behalf of President Jennifer Raab, I want to thank Stan Litow and his team for organizing a stimulating dialogue on the challenge of how we reimagine education to be an engine for individual opportunity and for increased global competitiveness of our nation.

It is a pleasure to be here with my friend, Arne Duncan, with whom I made common cause in Chicago when I was president of the MacArthur Foundation and he CEO of the Public Schools. Arne, your vision, creative programs, determination, and results fire our optimism about a brighter future for our children and our country.

Today’s event is emblematic of the mission of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. This is a place where business leaders, government officials, scholars and the general public come to discuss and openly debate the critical issues facing our city and state, our nation and the world.

No issue is more important to our future than how education and training can advance economic recovery and strengthen US competitiveness. Franklin Roosevelt confronted that challenge during the Great Depression.

At the College of William and Mary in 1934, he said, “The purpose of education [is] to educate … broadly. … The necessities of our time demand that men [and women] avoid being set in grooves, that they avoid the occupational pre-destination of the older world, and that in the face of change and development in America, they must have a sufficiently broad and comprehensive conception of the world in which they live to meet its changing problems with resourcefulness and practical vision.”

Those words are good advice to us and to the rising generation.

For my closing thought I draw insight from John Seely Brown’s recent book The Power of Pull. He urges us to recognize that a “Big Shift” has occurred: the power of “Pull” has replaced “Push” as the critical paradigm. “Push” is the well-ordered, top-down world we all grew up in, a world where education occurred at a defined time with a structured curriculum. The new world of “Pull” honors individual initiative, celebrates collaboration, respects serendipity, sees learning as a continual process and understands that “the needs of participants can not be well anticipated in advance.”

So as we seek to collaborate to improve the quality of education and its connection to jobs and economic growth, we should keep in mind that qualities like adaptability and reliance are critical in the new world of “Pull.”



Ira Shapiro, “The Last Great Senate”

The Last Great Senate
May 8, 2012

On May 8, 2012 Ira Shapiro came to the Roosevelt House to discuss his book entitled The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis. In examining the Congresses of the 1960s and 1970s, Shapiro reminds us that the Legislature can be a vehicle for great national reform and leadership. Jonathan Fanton introduced Professor Shapiro and The Last Great Senate. This event was part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to the Election of 2012” series.  

Good Evening, I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the historic home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Tonight’s conversation with Ira Shapiro on his book The Last Great Senate is part of a Roosevelt House series on the Road to the Election of 2012. Please pick up a flier which describes other programs which we hope will be of interest to you. We began the series with a conference on the domestic accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson, a preview of what the Last Great Senate accomplished.

I think FDR would be pleased that we are having this conversation in his home this evening, moderated by Jonathan Alter who gave the very first talk in the Roosevelt House book series on The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.

FDR understood the importance of a great Congress. Hear his words, in a June 1934 Fireside Chat on the record of the Seventy-third Congress: “Congress displayed a greater freedom from mere partisanship than any other peace-time Congress since the Administration of President Washington himself. The session was distinguished by the extent and variety of legislation enacted and by the intelligence and good will of debate upon these measures.”

While FDR would not be happy about our current Congress, which, according to a recent Gallup Poll, has the support of only 10% of all Americans, he would have admired the Last Great Senate. And used it.

Ira Shapiro has written an important book that reminds us there is more at stake in this fall’s election than the Presidency. The Last Great Senate is a call to action. As Ira Shapiro put it so eloquently: “What is most urgently needed is for Senators to act like Senators, not partisan operatives. They should not mirror, and even exacerbate, the nation’s divisions. They were sent to Washington to overcome them.”

It is my pleasure now to introduce Peter Osnos who will open tonight’s program. He is an active member of Roosevelt House’s Board of Advisors, and we benefit enormously from his experience as a journalist, editor and publisher.

Early in his career he was both foreign and national editor of the Washington Post, then a senior editor at Random House until he founded PublicAffairs in 1997. PublicAffairs is the leading publisher of books that advance our understanding of public lives and policies they have shaped including books by or about Robert McNamara, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Barack Obama.

And about issues important to our democracy including the government response to 9/11 (William Shawcross’ Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and/or Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach’s Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed Bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda), global antipoverty initiatives (Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee’s Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty) education policy (Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All), and corporate decision-making (George Soros’ Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States and/or Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele’s The Betrayal of the American Dream). The Last Great Senate deepens the tradition.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the best publisher of our time, Peter Osnos.

Remarks at Presidential Leadership Symposium

On March 14-15, 2012 Roosevelt House organized an academic conference entitled Revisiting the Great Society: The Role of Government from FDR to LBJ to Today. The two-day event featured presentations by scholars, policymakers, and former national political leaders on the foundational initiatives of and ideas behind the Great Society. Four major panels — health care, education, poverty, and civil rights — sparked vigorous discussions about the role of government in American society and popular attitudes towards American political institutions then and now. Jonathan Fanton opened the conference with these remarks. To view the full conference schedule, click here.

Text of the speech:

Good morning. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to these historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor, and Franklin’s mother, Sara. This is an appropriate setting for our conference which bears the subtitle of The Role of Government from FDR and LBJ to Today. Think back to the fall of 1932 as the New Deal took shape in this place, cabinet officers like Frances Perkins recruited here, commitments to programs like Social Security made in the President’s study on the second floor.

Thanks to the vision of President Jennifer Raab, Roosevelt House is now Hunter College’s Public Policy Institute, offering undergraduate programs in public policy and international human rights, sponsoring events for the general public and encouraging policy research across disciplinary lines. This conference is emblematic of Roosevelt House’s mission.

We heard yesterday about how deeply Lyndon Johnson respected Franklin Roosevelt.  Johnson said this at the 20th anniversary of FDR’s death:
“Today’s America is his America more than it is the work of any man… . He had the gardener’s touch. In some mysterious way he could reach out, and where there was fear, came hope; where there was resignation, came excitement; where there was indifference, came compassion. And perhaps we can remember him most, not for what he did, but for what he made us want to do. We are trying to do it still. And I suppose we always will…”

And I suppose this is what we are about today.

The conference planners made a conscious decision to focus on LBJ’s domestic record from which we have much to learn. But we should not shy away from foreign policy and Vietnam as we explore presidential leadership, relations with Congress, public opinion and difficult budgetary trade-offs.

Robert Caro’s moving keynote last evening helped us appreciate the roots of Johnson’s instinctive passion for using the power of the presidency to fight poverty and discrimination .

The lively panel that followed gave us insight into how he did it, his love of the political process and steadfast commitment to making it work to fulfill the values and principles of the charter documents of our country.

Today we will see those skills in action as we take a deep look at four of Johnson’s major accomplishments: reducing poverty and opening opportunity, advancing the quality and availability of health care, expanding federal support for education, and promoting civil rights and confronting discrimination.

Each moderator will pose key questions for a conversation among our distinguished panelists. Then you will be invited to join the discussion. We hope each panel will touch on four themes:

    • presidential leadership;
    • the role and responsibility of government;
    • the challenges of implementing federal programs, including the Great Society’s successes, disappointments and unintended consequences;
    • the role of politics in framing, passing and carrying out programs, both then and now.

The last 100 years have seen a remarkable evolution in how we think about the role of government. The progressive era of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the New Deal, the Great Society were three periods of invention and commitment to a more just and humane society. But it is going on 50 years since Lyndon Johnson left office, close to five decades without a sustained focus on reform.

Problems have mounted, inequality has grown, unrest is brewing, and faith in government is at near record lows. The statistics are a powerful reminder of Johnson’s injunction that we have more work to do.

    • 49 million people, or 16% of all Americans, live below the poverty line (Reuters).
    • Only 18% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country (, January 11, 2012).

Lyndon Johnson, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson School in 1966, put a challenge to the young men and women training for careers in public service. Imagine him here today talking to our faculty and students in the home of his mentor.

He said: [You can] “help us answer the question that Franklin Roosevelt… asked more than 30 years ago: Will it be said that ‘Democracy was a great dream, but it could not do the job? President Roosevelt did not doubt the answer.  … With his detractors and his defacers, with his dissenters and his doubters… he began to organize the modern Office of the President and to bring American government into the mid-twentieth century.”

Well we are now in a new century, facing an important election which will be a referendum on how well presidential power is being exercised. Part of the test will be the terms on which the 2012 campaign is waged. This is an inflection point in our history, a measure of how well our democracy mediates sharply divergent views on the role of government and contending interpretations of the values and principles upon which our nation is founded.

Presidential leadership has never been more important. And so, too, is the art of politics. As Johnson said of FDR, “He knew that leadership required not only vision but the skill to move men and to build institutions. And like every one of our great presidents, President Roosevelt was a great politician. He proved again and again that politics, scorned by so many, is an honorable calling.”

We have much to learn from Lyndon Johnson’s leadership as we gather in the home of the man from whom he learned so much. Perhaps we will distill some lessons from their experience which will benefit our current leaders.

To introduce our keynote speaker for today, I am pleased to call on Joe Califano from whom I have learned so much. I had the privilege of working with him at the start of his tenure as HEW Secretary. As the chief domestic advisor to LBJ, Joe was deeply involved in shaping and implementing Great Society programs. He is author of a dozen books including A Presidential Nation and The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson.  A lawyer by training, he is really a student of history but also an activist with a passion to learn from the past.

He wrote a dozen years ago, “What Lyndon Johnson was about during his presidency was social and economic revolution, nothing less. To what extent he succeeded and how beneficial his successes were I leave ….to the judgment of history.”  Well, that is a good challenge for our work today.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Joseph Califano.

John Hamre and Jessica Matthews Introduction

On March 10, 2009 Jonathan Fanton introduced John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to discuss the foreign policy challenges and priorities facing the then recently-elected President, Barack Obama

Jonathan F. Fanton

Introduction of John Hamre and Jessica Matthews

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I am pleased to welcome John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Thank you for taking the time to meet with the MacArthur Board and senior staff.

We are holding our March Board meeting in Washington so we can talk with senior members of the new Administration about issues of mutual concern.  We are obviously pleased that our friend and Chicago neighbor has become President, and proud that he has recruited so many people with MacArthur ties as Senior Advisors, to his Cabinet and in key positions throughout the executive branch.

As you know, MacArthur supports a variety of initiatives, including research, policy analysis, demonstration projects, and capacity building on issues like affordable housing, education, peace and security, and conservation.  But, in the end, our financial contribution is modest, and it takes government policy and action to move good ideas to scale.  In the U.S. and in 60 countries around the world, we work with government agencies and follow government policies closely.

For the most part, the landscape in the U.S. is changing in ways that create a more favorable context for our work.  We need to understand those changes and then adapt to new opportunities – and perhaps new challenges as well.  We will spend our June Board meeting on that review, so our conversations today and tomorrow are part of the learning process.

On the domestic side, we will be meeting with Valerie Jarrett, Shaun Donovan, and Arne Duncan.  And Bill Burns has organized a conversation at the State Department with Anne Marie Slaughter, the new Director of Policy Planning.  Other senior officials may join, if confirmed and available.

Before embarking on those meetings, we thought it would be useful to get an overview from people we know, trust, and respect with whom we have been working.  Bruce Katz of Brookings and Len Burman of the Urban Institute Tax Policy Center gave us a good hour on domestic policy.

We have been pleased to support CSIS for international security policy studies, workshops in the areas of Russian security, biological threat reduction, and Asia-Pacific issues, among others.

And we have benefited from John’s long experience in government, during which he served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense.  John maintains strong ties to the Department of Defense, serving as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee to Secretary Gates.  From 1993-1997, he served as under secretary of defense (comptroller), and for ten years he was a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

MacArthur has benefited from a long relationship with Jessica, which goes back to the early days of the World Resources Institute.  Currently, we work with the Carnegie Endowment on international migration research, nonproliferation work, and in Russia.  where we enjoy a particularly close relationship with Carnegie’s Moscow office and support its journal, Pro et Contra.

So John and Jessica together touch on every aspect of our international program.

In the opening days of his administration, President Obama set a clear tone for some of the changes he intends for U.S. foreign policy—from closing Guantanamo to the appointment of the high level envoys George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke to manage relations with key countries. John and Jessica, we would like to hear what your thoughts on these steps and what you project to be the defining foreign policy challenges of the new administration.

In particular, we are interested in the future of disarmament talks, prospects for the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, your thoughts on peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery (such as in African or South Asian conflicts), and your thoughts on the roles India and China may play in international institutions and development — what opportunities do their evolving roles in foreign policy afford the new administration?

We would be interested in knowing what your greatest hopes and worries are for the new Administration and how your institutions will adapt to the new context.