Category Archives: Roosevelt House Introductions

Jeffrey Sachs, “To Move The World”

On June 13, 2013, Jonathan provided introductory remarks for a presentation by world renowned economist and scholar, Jeffrey Sachs, on his newly published book entitled, To Move The World, which chronicles JFK’s quest for peace during his last two years in office. The video can be viewed here.

Jeffrey Sachs

June 13, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a presentation by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of his just published book To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace. It is an absorbing narrative of Kennedy’s own profile in courage, rich with lessons for our own time, skillfully analyzed by Professor Sachs.

We gather in the historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. Eleanor and Franklin lived here from 1908 until they moved to the White House in 1933.

I think they would welcome the conversation we are going to have about John F. Kennedy’s last great campaign in his final years of life:  to reset relations with the Soviet Union on a more peaceful course, pushing back against the Cold War virus. Central to this narrative is President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963 speech at American University a half century ago this week.

While conceding that Communism was repugnant, Kennedy said, “But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and individual growth, in culture, in acts of courage … So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we can not end now our differences, at least we can make this world safe for diversity.”

 I believe FDR would have applauded JFK’s initiative and the achievement of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Behind me is a picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, an appropriate backdrop for tonight’s program. As we know, Churchill was a role model for John Kennedy. And in his personal relationship with Khrushchev, he might have learned from FDR. Some have argued had Roosevelt lived, relations with the Soviet Union might have been better.

Indeed Stalin is reported to have said after Yalta, “Let’s hope nothing happens to Roosevelt. We shall never do business again with anyone like him.” Well, not until John F. Kennedy.

As Kennedy emerged from the Cuban Missile Crisis determined to chart a safer, less confrontational course, he might have recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s October 5, 1944 radio address from the White House:

“[We have a] firm and friendly relationship…with the people of the Soviet Union… The American people are glad and proud to be allied with the gallant people of Russia, not only in winning this war but in laying the foundations for the world peace which I hope will follow this war – and in keeping that peace. We have seen our civilization in deadly peril. Successfully we have met the challenge… What is now being won in battle must not be lost by lack of vision, or lack of knowledge, or by lack of faith… We owe it to our posterity, we owe it to our heritage of freedom, we owe it to our God, to devote the rest of our lives and all of our capabilities to the building of a solid, durable structure of world peace …”

John F. Kennedy made good on FDR’s promise to posterity.

Who better to tell the story of how human kind can push back the forces of pessimism, cynicism and despair by sustained purposeful actions than Jeffrey Sachs? His life is a celebration of how we can achieve a more just, peaceful and humane world.

Trained at Harvard in economics he became a tenured full professor there at age 28. Over the years he has written on the relationship of trade and economic growth, public health and economic development, strategies for economic reform and transition to market economies, climate change, the battle to end global poverty and more. He has written three NY Times bestsellers in the past seven years. The End of Poverty, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The Price of Civilization.

Jeff Sachs translates research and theory into practice with the best of them. Here is a sample: In the 1980s he helped Bolivia fight hyperinflation and reform its economy. In 1989, he helped Poland chart its transition from central planning to a market economy, followed by similar advisory roles for Slovenia and Estonia. Then he took on an even  greater challenge advising first Mikhail Gorbachev and then Boris Yeltsin on Russia’s transition toward a market economy.

As important as that work was, I venture to say his real passion is fighting poverty, especially in Africa. In 2002 he came to Columbia to direct the Earth Institute and work with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to shape the Millennium Development Goals. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, worked with Kofi Annan to design the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and now directs the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network to connect the best knowledge of what works to real life challenges on the ground.

I first met Jeff Sachs when MacArthur supported his Millennium Village Project working in 10 countries directly helping over 500,000 people. This project aims to show that modest investments can empower rural villages to seize hold of their destiny and lift themselves out of poverty. The theory is to work on an interrelated set of issues at the same time: agricultural productivity, improved drinking water, health clinics, bed nets to ward off malaria, job training, new schools and more.

I had the privilege of visiting one of the project villages, Pampaida in Nigeria, and was impressed by the progress. Ten new schools raised school attendance by 20%,  90% of the children now receive meals in school, chronic malnutrition of kids under 2 is down 45%, malaria prevalence cut in half, 70% of the population has access to improved water, crop yields per hectare up four-fold.


I recall vividly visiting a new health clinic in Pampaida – well staffed and equipped. 90% of the population has access to a health clinic, up from 10% when Jeff Sachs started. I was particularly interested in the reduction of maternal mortality, a key issue for the MacArthur Foundation, and was impressed with the progress made.

We should invite Jeff  back another night to talk about this important work because he surely knows How to Move The World. But tonight is JFK’s night. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Michael Fullilove, “Rendezvous with Destiny”

On July 8, 2013, Jonathan gave introductory remarks for a discussion between Lowy Institute Executive Director, Michael Fullilove, and Hunter College professor of Political Science, Andrew Polsky, on Fullilove’s newly published book Rendezvous with Destiny. The video can be viewed here.

Michael Fullilove

July 8, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara, who built these twin townhouses in 1908 and gave number 49 to Eleanor and Franklin as a wedding gift. It was here Franklin and Eleanor raised their family, Franklin recovered from polio and re-entered politics, launched his presidential campaign and put together his administration. Francis Perkins tells the story of her recruitment to the Cabinet in a conversation in FDR’s second floor study where he made a commitment to create a Social Security program. Sara Roosevelt was never far from Eleanor and Franklin since she had connected the houses on several floors.

The houses came to Hunter when Sara died in 1942, used as a student center until closing in disrepair in 1992. Thanks to the vision and determination of Hunter President Jennifer Raab, who is here this evening, the houses were renovated in 2008 when she created the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.

Tonight we have a very special program, a conversation between Hunter Professor of Political Science, Andrew Polsky, and Michael Fullilove, author of Rendezvous with Destiny. It is a study of how FDR used five special emissaries to pave the way for America’s entry into World War II and move toward global leadership.

Dr. Fullilove is Director of the Lowy Institute, Australia’s top think tank, with a special interest in understanding foreign policy challenges facing Australia within the Asia Pacific region and the global implications of developments in the region.

We hope tonight is the beginning of a relationship between Lowy and Roosevelt House. Only three years old, the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute has built two strong undergraduate programs, one in public policy, the other in human rights. It brings faculty together from across Hunter and supports their research, including conferences like ‘Ike Reconsidered,’ a forum organized by Professor Andrew Polsky that examined the importance of President Eisenhower’s legacy for the 21st century. And it offers a robust set of public programs. Most recently UNDP Director Helen Clark discussing the Millennium Development Goals, Robert Morgenthau on Justice for Immigrants, and former International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo this past March, reflecting on his term as the Court’s first prosecutor.

While the topics for our programs range widely, it is always especially meaningful to focus on the Roosevelts in the home where they lived from 1908 until they went to the White House. World views were shaped, values honed, temperments sharpened in this place.

Michael Fullilove quotes an observation from Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Roosevelt’s biographer, that Roosevelt “lived in a household of unresolved jurisdictions, and it had never occurred to him to try to settle lines in between mother and wife.” And later, perhaps, between formal lines of authority in the State Department and his personal representatives.

Tonight we will gain fresh insight about FDR’s skillful use of special envoys to gain information, send signals, shape policies and public opinion. [He strongly believed in personal diplomacy, direct conversations between leaders. He was confident in his capacity to persuade through charm and guile. But he couldn’t be everywhere. As he recounts to Stalin in July 1941: “I ask you to treat Mr. Hopkins with the identical confidence you would feel if you were talking directly to me. He will communicate directly to me the views that you express to him and will tell me what you consider are the most pressing individual problems on which we could be of aid.”]

To introduce our program I am pleased to call on Rita Eleanor Hauser, a graduate of Hunter College and a valued member of the Roosevelt House Board. She has been a member of the International Advisory Council of the Lowy Institute. Rita implored me not to give a long introduction. So I say simply she is a talented lawyer, with her husband, Gus, a generous philanthropist, and a civic leader serving on Boards like the International Peace Academy, the International Crisis Group, Lincoln Center and more. And she knows something about tonight’s topic, the role of special envoys and peace initiatives. She was part of a group from the Center for Peace in the Middle East, invited by the Swedish foreign minister, that orchestrated discussions which led Yasser Arafat in 1988 to recognize the State of Israel and to renounce terrorism. These negotiations helped pave the way for the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

Hedrick Smith, “Who Stole The American Dream?”

On June 24, Jonathan provided introductory remarks for a presentation by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Hedrick Smith, on his new book about the erosion of the American Dream entitled, Who Stole The American Dream? The video can be viewed here.   


Hedrick Smith Introduction

June 24, 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 discussion of Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith, one of America’s most distinguished journalists. Roosevelt House Board member, William vanden Heuvel, will introduce him in a moment.

We are pleased to co-sponsor this event with Common Cause which mobilizes citizens across America to fight to improve our democratic practices and curb the pernicious influence of money in politics. We celebrate a recent Common Cause victory in the Supreme Court. Last Monday the Court ruled 7-2 to uphold the National Voting Registration Act of 1993, striking down Arizona’s 2004 requirement that voters present evidence of citizenship—one that prevented many eligible citizens from practicing their right to vote.

Before going on we should have a moment of silence in remembrance of Common Cause’s President, Bob Edgar, who died recently.


We cherish the memory of his nearly 40 years of public service. Bob’s strong moral compass and his commitment to fairness are traits we can all admire. If you attended our conversation with Bob last year here at Roosevelt House, you got a taste of the vision, energy, compassion and commitment that animated his fight to make the American Dream a reality.

No doubt many of us share Bob Edgar’s concern about the current state of our democracy. As President Obama seeks to shape his legacy in a fiercely partisan Washington and our city struggles to select a new mayor equal to its challenges, it is useful for us to look at the context of both the national and local debate. In his introduction to Who Stole the American Dream?, Hedrick Smith proposes to “provide a reporter’s CAT scan of the two Americas today, examining the interplay of economics and politics to disclose how the shift of power and of wealth have led to the unraveling of the American Dream for the middle class.” He also offers a compelling narrative of “how we evolved into such an unequal democracy—how we lost the moderate political middle and how todays’ polarized politics reinforce economic inequality and a pervasive sense of economic insecurity.”

These are topics we very much need to understand, to discuss and debate and to do something about.

It is appropriate that we talk about Who Stole the American Dream? under the watchful gaze of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. In this house, FDR assembled his administration and crafted the New Deal that advanced the American Dream. Upstairs in his second floor study, he recruited Frances Perkins to be Secretary of Labor and made the commitment to Social Security. FDR was clear about who stole the American Dream in his time. Hear his words when he accepted renomination in 1936:

“…For too many of us, the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor—other people’s lives. For too many of us, life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness…”

He was determined to protect and advance the American Dream. And he knew eternal vigilance was required. He would have appreciated Hedrick Smith’s call to action.

To introduce our speaker tonight, I am pleased to present Ambassador William vanden Heuvel.

A lawyer by training, Ambassador vanden Heuvel has had a distinguished career in private practice and public service. As special assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy he played a key role in implementing the Brown vs. Board of Education decision desegregating schools in the South. He served as Special Counsel to Governor Averell Harriman, Vice President of the New York State Constitutional Convention, Chair of the New York City Board of Corrections. And then in 1977 he became Ambassador to the U.N.’s European Office and in 1979, U.S. deputy representative to the U.N.  His civic activities have included chairing the U.N. Association and the International Refugee Committee.

More than anyone I know he has helped all of us appreciate the legacy of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. He has been President of the Franklin and Eleanor Institute since its creation in 1987 and is the driving force behind the creation of the beautiful Roosevelt Memorial and Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. It is one of the most moving, meaningful and beautiful public spaces in our city and country. When you are there you can feel the inspiration of Franklin and Eleanor. Bill, we will be forever grateful for your leadership in all places and institutions Roosevelt.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome William vanden Heuvel.

In Conversation with Helen Clark

On June 11, 2013 Jonathan sat down with former New Zealand Prime Minister and current head of the United Nations Development Programme to discuss her career in international development and the challenges she faces ahead. To view the video, click here.

Helen Clark

June 11, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director at Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a conversation with Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. Our program is made possible tonight by the generosity of Hunter alumna, Phyllis Kossof, who has been a major force in developing Hunter’s public programs. Previous speakers in the Kossoff series include Tom Brokaw, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer, and historian David Kennedy.

Phyllis, we are grateful for your friendship and steadfast support. Please stand.

Tonight’s program is of special interest to all of us who care about creating a more just and peaceful world.

Funded at the level of roughly 5 billion dollars in voluntary contributions, UNDP works in 177 countries to increase political transparency, build democratic institutions, oversee the disbursement of humanitarian aid, and help governments reduce poverty.  It is the lead agency on driving and monitoring the world’s progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by world leaders in 2000.  Her vision for an integrated approach to development and poverty eradication is the theoretical basis of the U.N. High Level Panel report released last month that articulates the post-2015 development agenda.

In preparing for tonight’s session I had the pleasure of reading through a selection of Helen Clark’s recent speeches and papers. The titles tell us a lot: “Inclusion and equality: Why Women’s Leadership Matters,” “Human Development and International Justice,” “Meaningful Development, Sustainable Growth,” “Why Tackling Climate Change Matters for Development,” “Conflict and Development: Inclusive Governance, Resilient Societies.” She is eloquent in teaching us that political, social and economic development must go together. In her words:

“At UNDP we see many of the non-financial constraints on human development – war and conflict, armed violence, low social cohesion, poor governance, corruption, poor enabling environments for trade and investment, and a lack of capacity to drive the development and implementation of strategies which could bring about transformational change.”

Under Helen Clark’s leadership, UNDP has addressed those challenges at a breathtaking pace around the world.

Here is a small sample meant to give you a glimpse of the scope of her work. UNDP:

  • Assisted 29 countries in adopting official policies that promote small enterprises and women’s entrepreneurship.
  • Helped mobilize an unprecedented number of young people to vote in Tunisia’s first democratic election in October 2011.
  • Worked with the Global Fund in 32 countries to fight the spread of AIDS.
  • Utilized a Gender Assessment Tool in over 20 countries to increase their spending on health and educational services for women.
  • Conducted case studies on water provision systems in Kenya,Tanzania, and Uganda.
  • Helped remove 60% of the rubble created by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with much of it being recycled to create new homes in the area.
  • Provided security advice to Libya and trained lawyers and judges in the lead up to the country’s first election since 1952.
  • Provided short-term employment to nearly 5,000 people and legal aide to over 7,000 people a one year period in Somalia.

Those individual accomplishments contribute to big picture progress. In the 13 years since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted there are a half billion fewer people living below the international poverty line, child death rates down 30%, malaria deaths down by one quarter. But we will hear in a moment how much more there is to do and how, despite this good progress, inequality grows. We are fortunate to have Helen Clark to lead us forward.

Appointed in 2009, Helen Clark was reappointed to a 4 year term in 2012 in recognition of her strong and compassionate leadership of all of the UN’s development programs.

She was well prepared for her important work on the world stage. She was trained as a political scientist at the University of Auckland where she taught before entering Parliament in 1981 when she chaired its Foreign Affairs Committee. She served as Minister of Housing, Minister of Health and Minister of Conservation before becoming Deputy Prime Minister. In 1994, Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms. As Prime Minister, she lowered unemployment, provided vital services for working families and students, raised wages for the working class, fostered economic growth, and reconciled with Samoa over abuses during New Zealand’s administration of the country.

Her deep experience in the political life of her home country prepared her well for her global responsibilities.

I think Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt would be pleased that we are gathered in their home tonight to talk about how wealthy nations can help improve the lives of the over 1 billion people who live in poverty, people who have energy and talent ready to be unleashed if given a chance.

Hear Eleanor’s words in Sydney, Australia in 1943:

“To help people to help themselves is perhaps the basis of an economic policy which has as its objective freedom from want throughout the world…the future will be safer and perhaps even more prosperous if for a time we devote ourselves to the task of helping people to help themselves…”

What better introduction could there be to Helen Clark whose life responds to Eleanor’s call?

Helen Clark and I will have a conversation for about 30 minutes and then invite you to join us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Helen Clark.

A Brief Talk with Luis Moreno Ocampo

On March 19, 2013 Luis Moreno Ocampo came to the Roosevelt House to discuss his former role as Commissioner of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and previous experiences with human rights issues abroad. Dr. Fanton introduced Mr. Ocampo (below) and sat down for a brief talk with the former Commissioner after his remarks.

Good Evening. I am Jonathan Fanton. Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, back to Roosevelt House for a reflection on his nine years as the court’s first prosecutor.

Roosevelt House has developed an outstanding undergraduate program on human rights and international justice, now enrolling 70 students who are doing internships with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ACLU, the Museum of Tolerance, and the Legal Aid Society. We also have a vigorous program for the public to discuss human rights issues with people like Kofi Annan, High Commissioner for H.R. Navi Pillay, US Special Ambassador for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, former prosecutors in the Yugoslav tribunals Richard Goldstone and Louise Arbour and current Rwandan Tribunal Prosecutor Hassan Jallow to name a few of our distinguished guests.

The International Criminal Court is the first permanent court to deal with genocide and mass atrocities. It builds on experience from the Nuremberg Trials and the international criminal tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Luis Moreno Ocampo bore the responsibility of translating the vision of the Treaty of Rome which brought the Court to life into reality. On his watch the number of countries which are members of the Court grew from 89 to 121. During his time as Prosecutor 30 indictments were issued covering situations in Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur, Kenya,  Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. And the Court won its first conviction in March 2012 against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and has trials proceeding against Germain Katanga of the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Central African Republic and President Laurent Gbagbo of  Côte d’Ivoire. The Court also has opened investigations in in Mali,  and preliminary  examinations in a number  of countries including  Afghanistan, Georgia, Nigeria, and Colombia.

The existence of the Court has raised the quality of justice in member states which have improved their judicial systems to conform to the ICC standards. The Prosecutor will talk with us about the “shadow of the Court,” its role in deterring bad behavior by political and military leaders fearful of being prosecuted.

At his swearing in ceremony in 2003, the Prosecutor said, “We must learn: there is no safe haven for life and freedom if we fail to protect the rights of any person in any country of the world.” Well, 10 years later we can say that the quality of justice and protection for human rights has improved because of the successful work of Luis Moreno Ocampo. There will only be one Founding Prosecutor and we are fortunate that his adherence to the highest judicial standards, careful choice of cases, political skill in building support for the Court and eloquent advocacy for international justice has produced a Court that is indeed permanent.

Luis Moreno Ocampo was well prepared for his historic challenge.

Born in Argentina and a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires Law School, Luis Moreno Ocampo rose to prominence during the early 1980s as the assistant prosecutor in the Trial of the Argentine Junta.. He was responsible for prosecuting nine senior government figures – including three former heads of state – for the  human rights atrocities while they ruled the country under a military dictatorship. He also took on the Buenos Aires Police Force for perpetrating gross human rights abuses, and later prosecuted other members of the military elite who attempted to overthrow the government during the late 1980s and early 90s.

In 1992, he established a successful private practice that specialized in corruption control, criminal law, and human rights law. In addition to his practice, he became a Professor of Criminal Law at the Buenos Aires Law School and has also been a visiting professor at the Stanford and Harvard law schools.

He is now in private practice in New York, focusing on defending whistleblowers and prosecuting fraud.

But he remains vitally interested in international justice and human rights education for young people.

The Prosecutor will share his reflections, then he and I will have a conversation and then we will open to the audience.

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.

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.

Michael Copps Introduction

On February 4, 2013 Jonathan Fanton, interim director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, introduced Michael Copps, head of the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause. Mr. Copps sat down with Professor Andrew Lund of CUNY Hunter College for a discussion about media ownership, the FCC, and efforts to promote diversity of thought within the television, radio, and newspaper industries. For further information on Common Cause, click here. For additional information on The Roosevelt House, click here.

Michael Copps Introduction
February 4, 2-13

Good evening, I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a conversation with Michael Copps, former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. He now heads the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause. Joining the conversation will be Hunter Professor Andrew Lund.

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.

The New Deal was shaped in these houses, Cabinet secretaries like Frances Perkins recruited here, commitments made to programs like Social Security.

The houses came to Hunter in 1942 after Sara Roosevelt’s death, made possible by an initial gift from Franklin and Eleanor that enabled Hunter to purchase them from the estate. The houses were an interfaith and 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 supports faculty policy research. And it offers a robust public program of lectures, conferences and discussions of important domestic and international issues.

Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that we are meeting in their home tonight to talk about the perils that media consolidation pose to our democracy.

Look behind you at the engravings of the Four Freedoms, Freedom of Speech and Expression first among them (Franklin Roosevelt established on January 6, 1941). President Roosevelt understood that a healthy democracy depends on an informed and engaged citizenry. Hear his words at a 1940 press conference at Hyde Park:
“…You might say there are certain freedoms. The first I would call “freedom of information,” which is terribly important. It is a much better phrase than “freedom of the press,” because there are all kinds of information so that the inhabitants of a country can get news of what is going on in every part of the country and in every part of the world without censorship and through many forms of communication.  … you will never have a completely stable world without freedom of knowledge, freedom of information.”

I think President Roosevelt would be concerned about current FCC proposals which aim to loosen restrictions on cross-ownership of television, radio, and newspapers.

Michael Copps has vigorously explored the over concentration of media ownership, the influence of money in politics, the failure of the FCC to protect the public interest, the dangers of the cable-i-zation of the internet. And he chronicles the results of these trends: less investigative journalism, vanishing local news, more opinions less evidence available to inform the public’s choices on people and policy.

Michael Copps has been a creative and courageous advocate of media reform. He will share his ideas with us, for example: requiring broadcast companies to be re-licensed more frequently and be challenged to explain how their presentation of the news serves the public interest. And no doubt we will talk about the negative consequences of the Citizens United decision.

In accepting the Four Freedoms Award in September 2011 from the Roosevelt Institute, Michael Copps echoed Franklin Roosevelt’s cautions 70 years ago. “Building news and information infrastructure that digs more deeply, gathers facts before shouting opinions, and affords expression to the many voices of this nation’s wondrous diversity may be our greatest calling now. Our country confronts challenges to its viability in some ways reminiscent of the 1930s, making it a national imperative that every American be empowered with the news and information essential for knowledgeable decision-making. Without that, the challenges go misunderstood, untended, unresolved. When our media, our press and our journalism catch cold, democracy catches pneumonia. Dr. New Deal prescribed strong cures for the challenges of his time; now we need the restorative medicine of reform in ours.”

Michael Copps holds a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina, began his career teaching history at Loyola University in New Orleans, served as Chief of Staff to Senator Ernest Hollings for over a decade, was appointed Assistant Secretary for Trade Development at the Department of Commerce by President Clinton and served on the FCC from 2001 to 2009.

It is also my pleasure to introduce our moderator, Professor Andrew Lund. Professor Lund is Director of the Integrated Media Arts MFA Program at Hunter College and a faculty associate at Roosevelt House. He received his B.A., M.F.A., and J.D. from Columbia University, where he also has taught graduate classes. He has won several filmmaking awards including, most recently, one for narrative filmmaking at the 2011 University Film and Video Association Conference and also top producing honors at the 2011 Brooklyn International Film Festival. Professor Lund is the producer of nine feature films. His work has been praised by noted film critic Roger Ebert and he has published important essays and articles on filmmaking and is in the process of publishing books on the art of the short film and the journey from short to feature film.
Michael Copps will open our program with a talk on Reforming Media, Democracy’s #1 Challenge, then join in conversation with Professor Lund followed by questions and comments from the audience.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael Copps.

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.