Free public lectures in the South Court Auditorium by the writers and scholars of the Research Study Rooms began last week, and with a bang.
Distinguished historian and biographer Susan Butler spoke about her forthcoming book, Roosevelt and Stalin: Winning the War: Shaping the Peace. For it, she discovered 300 unpublished hot-war messages, researched the Tehran and Yalta conferences, and we learned all sorts of things - from semi-trivia (Stalin was 5'4") to a discussion (the audience was feisty) of whether Roosevelt was too friendly with Stalin. Butler argued that realpolitik prevailed. Roosevelt knew quite well Stalin's murderous and paranoid character, but as FDR couldn't affect Soviet society, he chose to influence the international sphere. In any case, the Allies needed Russia very much. Both were quite charming in person. Like Leonard Bernstein, each enjoyed the ability to make the spoken to feel as if s/he were the highlight of the day. Roosevelt was among the few of which Stalin spoke highly.
There is more on Roosevelt this week. On Thursday, September 16th at 4 o'clock Mason Williams will speak about his forthcoming book Franklin Roosevelt, Fiorello La Guardia, and the New Deal in New York City. That was another close but tumultuous relationship. I'll be hosting at the door and hope to see you there. If you mention this blog, I'll give you a (very inconsequential) gift.