Saturday, January 28, 2017

They understood the stagecraft of statesmanship

From Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham. On page 5, about the similarities between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. I am struck by the overlap in their reading.
They had been born eight years and an ocean apart—Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill on November 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire; Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 30, 1882, at Hyde Park in Dutchess County, New York. They loved tobacco, strong drink, history, the sea, battleships, hymns, pageantry, patriotic poetry, high office, and hearing themselves talk. "Being with them was like sitting between two lions roaring at the same time," said Mary Soames. With Roosevelt in his naval cape and Churchill in his service uniforms, they understood the stagecraft of statesmanship. "There was a good deal of the actor in each," said Mike Reilly, Roosevelt's Secret Service chief, "and we Secret Service men who had to arrange their exits and their entrances found we were working for a pair of master showmen who were determined that no scenes would be stolen by the other."

They were the sons of rich American mothers. Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874; Sara Delano became the second wife of James Roosevelt in 1880. Roosevelt, the cousin of a president, came from the Hudson Valley, Groton School, Harvard College, and Columbia Law School; Churchill, the grandson of a duke, from Blenheim, Harrow, and Sandhurst. In a sign of how small the elite Anglo-American world in which they moved was, one of the wives of Winston's cousin the duke of Marlborough was romanced by Winthrop Rutherfurd, the husband of Franklin's illicit love, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. As boys, Roosevelt and Churchill were obsessive collectors: stamps, birds, books, and naval prints for Roosevelt, toy soldiers and butterflies for Churchill. Cousin Theodore's legend fired young Roosevelt's political imagination; Lord Randolph's career fascinated his son. As children and young men, they read the same books: Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, the naval writings of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, G. A. Henty's boys' books about the glories of empire, Kipling's poems and fiction, and Macaulay's history and essays. They loved Shakespeare, the Sermon on the Mount, and movies—even bad ones.

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