Commentar: FDR, Social Security and the U.N.

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 28, 2012 

The year after witnessing the opening of his masterpiece, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, architect Louis Kahn took on a project in New York City.

In the early 1970s a park was planned on Roosevelt Island, in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, to honor the president who guided the nation through the Great Depression, led it strongly during World War II and positioned it as the host of a newly created world body whose goal was to keep the peace: the United Nations.

Creation of the park, according to The Washington Post, was announced in 1973 by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsay, who appointed Kahn to be the architect. The paper quoted a former U.N. ambassador as saying Kahn completed the design the next year.

That's the year the architect died.

When shortly afterward New York fell on hard times and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park fell by the wayside.

After 40 years, the triangular 4-acre park was formally dedicated last week. Its memorial to Roosevelt, featuring a large bronze bust of the president, is just across the river from the U.N. headquarters building. It will open to the public, appropriately, on Wednesday, United Nations Day, which commemorates the founding of the U.N. in 1945.

During the nation's most recent recession -- the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- I've done a lot of thinking about Roosevelt.

It's been sad to hear some of the late president's critics assail his New Deal, claiming that it was some big ineffective giveaway program.

I'm not wise enough to decipher every detail of the Depression-era programs and their cost-effectiveness, but don't tell me Social Security didn't work, no matter how many conservatives want to dismantle it now.

I also know that there were numerous projects that put men and women to work. I see evidence of their labor every day -- when I pass the old downtown post office building on Lancaster Avenue, cross a long, ornate bridge over the Trinity River or visit the Cultural District complex named for Will Rogers.

And when I think of Roosevelt, I can't help but think about the U.N., a great institution that for some reason has become one of the most maligned organizations on earth, particularly by some of our leaders in Congress who use it as a whipping boy every chance they get.

Some of those leaders resent the U.S. participation in this multination organization, not just in terms of the funding allocated (almost $8 billion annually), but because of the very fact that we seek U.N. approval on some actions or that American troops might be assigned to a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

There were many years when the United States didn't pay all its dues yet still insisted on having a major influence in the body. Of course, there are always those voices calling for our country to withdraw altogether.

For those who'd like to see the U.N. disappear, ask yourselves this question: What would the world be like today if there had not been a United Nations for the last 67 years?

By the way, the name of the new park in New York comes from Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union address, which was dubbed the "Four Freedoms Speech."

It would be good if, during these troubled times, we would reflect on those four freedoms outlined by that great president before leading the nation to war: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

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