Category Archives: Video

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.

In Conversation with Sara Lawrence Lightfoot

On April 11, 2013 Jonathan Fanton sat down with acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot for a conversation about her career and reflections on learning, culture, and relationships. To view the video, click here.

Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Introduction

Thursday April 11, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure you welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our recent conference entitled Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, philanthropist Rita Hauser, and, most recently, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio.


But tonight is a very special to me as I sit down with my friend and colleague, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. Sara and I made common cause at the MacArthur Foundation when she was Board Chair and I President. She is the best Board Chair I know and I have known a lot. I learned a great deal from her — how to ask probing questions in a nice way, how to listen deeply, how to explain the foundation’s work through stories rather than dry statistics of impact. Sara knows how to build a community based on mutual respect, open but civil discourse, and deep personal relationships. She moves easily among disciplines, geographies, cultures, always eloquent, ever-inspiring. I have seen her in action from the Chicago board room to New York City neighborhoods, from Fiji to Nigeria to India and many places in between.

Sara is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard where she has been teaching since 1980. She has written 10 books with titles that invite you in: Balm In Gilead: Journey of a Healer, I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation, Respect: An Exploration, Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free, and The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other.

My idea for this series of conversations was inspired by that book and I see each conversation as a learning experience for all of us here.

As you will see, Sara is a modest person, unpretentious, fun to be with. When you meet her, you feel the warmth, the empathy, the interest in hearing what you have to say. And always a desire to help. And yet, here I am facing a winner of the McArthur Prize Fellowship, someone recognized with 28 honorary degrees, a recipient of Harvard’s George Ledlie prize for “research and discovery” that make the “most valuable contribution to science” and “the benefit of mankind.” And that’s just a sample.

She is a devoted and gifted teacher. I know her students come first. And she is a thoughtful and productive scholar who has advanced our understanding of how personal development, family, community and pedagogy come together to create enabling learning environments.

But somehow she finds time for public service, Chair of the MacArthur Board, now Deputy Chair of the Atlantic Philanthropies, member of the boards of WGBH in Boston, the Berklee College of Music, her alma mater Swarthmore, the Coalition of Essential Schools, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and much more.

Let me close with a sample of her work, from her book Respect, which she sees as…

“Symmetric and dynamic.… (It) supports growth and change, encourages communication and authenticity and allows generosity and empathy to flow in two directions…. (It is) visceral, palpable, conveyed through gesture, nuance, tone of voice and figure of speech…. It is more than civility…. It penetrates below the polite surface and reflects a growing sense of connection, empathy and trust. It requires seeing the other as genuinely worthy…. Respect is not just conveyed through talk, it is also conveyed through silence.  I do not mean an empty, distracted silence.  I mean a fully engaged silence that permits us to think, feel, breathe, and take notice – silence that gives the other person permission to let us know what he or she needs.”

After Sara and I talk for a while we will broaden the conversation to include all of you.

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.

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.


In Conversation with James Lipton

On November 14, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Inside The Actor’s Studio’s distinguished host James Lipton  for a conversation about his life and career.

James Lipton Introduction

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure you welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Shapiro’s The Last Great Senate, hear world leaders like former Chile President Michelle Bachelet who now heads UN Women, or talk politics with the likes of Ed Rollins, mixing it up with Roosevelt House Fellow Geoff Kabaservice on the state of the Republican party.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, and, most recently, philanthropist Rita Hauser. But tonight is very special to me as I talk with my model and mentor, James Lipton.

You probably know him as the creator and host of Inside the Actors Studio, the award-winning Bravo show that reaches 89 million homes in the US and is seen in 125 countries around the world. In 19 years on the air, Jim has interviewed over 250 actors, directors and writers. No one is better at creating safe space where Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Kate Winslet and more open up about themselves and their craft.

And James has even interviewed one of Hunter’s own – Ellen Barkin, who majored in history and drama at Hunter and eventually starred in the 1987 smash hit, The Big Easy, opposite Dennis Quaid. Who knows? Perhaps one of the current 200-plus undergraduate and MFA students taking classes in Hunter’s renowned Film, Media, or Theater Departments is a future Inside interviewee.

One reason Jim is so good is that he has done it all in his own career. In the 1940s, he played the Lone Ranger’s nephew on WXYZ in his hometown Detroit. He was on Broadway in Autumn Garden in 1951, was a character in TV soap opera The Guiding Light, and a scriptwriter for The Edge of Night in the 1950s, wrote the lyrics for Nowhere To Go But Up and Sherry! in the 1960s, co-produced Tony award winning Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978. But there’s more. He was the Executive Producer of Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala and 12 Bob Hope birthday specials.

He is author of the bestselling An Exaltation of Larks, published a novel Mirrors  and contributes articles to the New York Times Magazine and Paris Review.

So when famous actors, producers, musicians and writers sit across from his stack of blue cards they know they are talking with a peer – one who has done his homework.

I met Jim through his lovely wife, Kedakai, who served on the Board of Parsons School of Design, a division of the New School when I was President. Late one evening, after a Board dinner at the President’s House on 11th Street, Jim lingered to propose an idea. He reminded me of the New School’s distinguished history in drama electives. In the 1940s  Erwin Piscator had organized the Dramatic Workshop at the New School, drawing faculty from the Group Theater including Stella Adler with whom Jim had studied.

And then he made a bold proposal: let’s start a drama school in cooperation with the Actors Studio of which he was Vice President. And we could subsidize it with a TV interview show with members of the Studio. I like the idea and I respected Jim. But I wanted some due diligence. Was the Actors Studio really on board? “No problem,” Jim said, “I set up a meeting.” A few days later my assistant said Mr. Lipton and others were in my conference room at the appointed time. I walked in to find Arthur Penn of Bonnie and Clyde fame, Norman Mailer, Ellyn Burstyn and apologies that Paul Newman who was behind the project had a schedule conflict. The rest is history, well told in Jim’s biography Inside Inside.

So Jim and I will have a conversation for a bit and then open up for your questions.


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.”



Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele’s “The Betrayal of the American Dream”

On September 5, 2012 Jonathan Fanton delivered an address introducing Donald L. Barlett’s and James B. Steele’s The Betrayal of the American Dream, which discusses the fate of the American middle class over the course of the twentieth century. The talk was a part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges On the Way to Election 2012” series.

Barlett & Steele – Betrayal of the American Dream

September 5, 2012

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 The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald Barlett and James Steele, two of America’s most distinguished journalists. Our moderator, Richard Tofel, will introduce them in a moment.

I am also pleased to welcome you to the historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. I say “homes” because Sara began to build two adjoining townhouses in 1907 and gave one to Eleanor and Franklin in 1908. The story of the Roosevelt family in these houses will be told through a documentary “Treasures of New York, Roosevelt House” to be aired on October 11 on Channel 13 at 8:30 pm and screened here at Roosevelt House on October 11.

The houses came to Hunter in 1942 when Sara died and Eleanor and Franklin helped Hunter purchase them from the estate to be used as an interfaith student center. After a vigorous life as a student center, the houses closed in disrepair in 1992 and were boarded up until Hunter President Jennifer Raab rescued them in 2008. After careful renovation they reopened in 2010 as the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, offering undergraduate programs in public policy and human rights. The Institute supports faculty research and offers programs for the general public.

In this election season, Roosevelt House is sponsoring a series called “The Road to November,” an in-depth look at issues that are – or should be – central to the campaign. The future of the American middle class is on the line in this election. The next administration will face hard choices about how to stimulate growth and address the deficit, including the future of Social Security and Medicare, so important to middle class America.

The Betrayal of the American Dream is a must read as we prepare to cast our votes this November. It examines inequities in the tax code, calls for investment in infrastructure that helps businesses and creates jobs, and focuses on what it will take to increase the growth in the manufacturing sector of our economy. “Who says that bipartisanship is dead in Washington?” the authors ask. “It’s worked to perfection in trade policy with devastating consequences.” I doubt trade policy will be a central issue in this election, but it should be. The Betrayal of the American Dream educated me about flaws and policies of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

When I began reading this book I literally could not put it down. It mixes heroic personal stories of middle class suffering with a well documented analysis of the forces which are assaulting the middle class.

It is poignant that we talk about The Betrayal of the American Dream under the watchful gaze of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. This is where Franklin Roosevelt assembled his administration and crafted the New Deal that advanced the American Dream. Upstairs in his study, he recruited Frances Perkins to be Secretary of Labor and made the commitment to Social Security. As Franklin himself noted in 1933: “I have said that we cannot attain [a lasting prosperity] in a nation half boom and half broke. If all of our people have work and fair wages and fair profits, they can buy the products of their neighbors and business is good. … It doesn’t help much if the fortunate half is very prosperous… The best way is for everybody to be reasonably prosperous.”

The Betrayal of the American Dream is a story of the assault on that vision.

To lead our conversation tonight, I am pleased to introduce Richard Tofel, the general manager of ProPublica. ProPublica is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 and headquartered here in New York that produces hard-hitting, independent investigative journalism on many of the important issues of the day. In 2010, ProPublica became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center. It has partnered with over 90 different news organizations including 60 Minutes, CNN and The New York Times. Before coming to ProPublica, Richard was the assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal, president of the International Freedom Center, and Vice President and Legal Counsel for the Rockefeller Foundation. He holds a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard and is author of four books, most recently Reckless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Richard Tofel, Donald Barlett and James Steele.