Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Kearns Goodwin
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front in World War II
ISBN: 0684804484
No Ordinary Time
Ms. Goodwin talked about her recently published book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Home Front in World War II, published by Simon and Schuster, which focuses on the White House scene during Franklin Roosevelt's term, including the intimate circle of friends surrounding President and Mrs. Roosevelt.
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TRANSCRIPT
No Ordinary Time
Program Air Date: January 1, 1995

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of " No Ordinary Time," if you could ask either Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Eleanor Roosevelt a couple of questions, after all the work you did on this book, what would they be?
DORIS GOODWIN, AUTHOR, "NO ORDINARY TIME": I think with Eleanor I'd like to understand why she was unable, at a certain moment in the middle of the war, when he asked her to be his wife again and stop traveling and stay home and take care of him, to say yes to him. I mean, I know that he loved her, I know she still loved him, and I'd want to say, "why didn't you do it? He's going to die soon. I wish you had done it." And I think for him I'd want to understand why he couldn't share himself more fully with anyone. He was the most ebullient, the most charming, most sparkling personality on the surface. Everybody thought how warm he was. But underneath, there was such reserve in him, and I'd want to try and understand why that was so, and why he wouldn't give himself more to the people who loved him.
LAMB: What makes this book different than all the rest?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, I think what I wanted to do in this book was to understand not only Franklin and Eleanor's relationship-- which has been looked at in many, many other cases-- but to understand the whole extended family that surrounded them in the White House. And I came to an understanding that these two characters really both needed other people to meet the untended needs that were left over as a result of their troubled marriage. So, what I came upon was a sense that the second family quarters of the White House were really like a residential hotel during these years, and there's about seven people living there, all of whom are intimate friends of either Franklin or Eleanor's. That was the part that was new and fun for me.
LAMB: If you had to ask a question of either one of them about personal relationships that they had with other people, who would you be most interested in?
Ms. Goodwin: I think the person that I'm interested in for Franklin is not simply Lucy Mercer-- who everybody assumes is the central romantic figure in his life because she had an affair with him back in 1918, and it almost broke up Eleanor's marriage-- but there's another woman that I think had an even more central role to play in his life, and that was his secretary, Missy Lehand. She had started working for him when she was only 20 years old, in 1920. She loved him all the rest of her life. She never married, and everybody in Washington knew that she was really his other wife. When Eleanor traveled, which she did, like, 200 or 250 days a year, she was the one who took care of Roosevelt. If he had a cold, she'd bring in the cough medicine to the white house. If he were grumpy during the day, she'd arrange a poker game at night. He had this cocktail hour every night, and somehow she'd be the one to be his hostess. She really was, on a daily basis, the closest person in the world to him. That's the relationship I'd like to know more about.
LAMB: You have, in the book, this second-floor scenario-- and we'll get a closer shot here on some of these names-- why did you put this in the book?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, it seemed to me that what the reader was going to get from reading the book was, I hoped, a sense of what it was like, 50 years ago, to be in the White House, and because each of these rooms was occupied by somebody who was very important to either Franklin or Eleanor-- their closest friends, in some case, romantic friends-- I wanted everybody to see how close they were; to see that they could wander around in the middle of the corridors at night and actually talk to one another.
LAMB: What year was this?
Ms. Goodwin: This was 1940 to 1945. So these rooms depict that period at that time.
LAMB: Well, as you can see here, on the one end, you have Eleanor Roosevelt's bedroom, and right across the hall is Lorena Hickok.
Ms. Goodwin: Right.
LAMB: Now, who... Who was Lorena Hickok, and what was their relationship? And this was the second floor of the White House?
Ms. Goodwin: Right. Lorena Hickok had been a former reporter for the "associated press," and, in fact, in 1933 she was considered the leading female reporter in the country. She weighed about 200 pounds, She smoked cigars, she played poker with the guys, and she was really smart. And what happened is she came to interview Franklin and Eleanor during the campaign in '32, and Eleanor and she became really close friends. She fell in love with Eleanor, and more importantly, she probably helped Eleanor become the activist first lady that she did. It was lorena who came up with the idea of Eleanor holding press conferences every week. Only female reporters could come. So a whole generation of female journalists got their start because every newspaper had to hire a female reporter. She was the one who came up with the idea of a syndicated column that Eleanor wrote every day, missing only the day that her husband died, and really helped Eleanor transform the role of the first lady from a ceremonial to an activist one. And in the course of that she did fall in love with Eleanor. Eleanor I don't think fully reciprocated it, but they were close enough friends that she wanted her living nearby. So she lived in the White House the entire time during the war.
LAMB: Also on this second-floor schematic is... You have a room in which Harry Hopkins lived in. And how long did he live in there, and who was he?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, Harry Hopkins had been Roosevelt's chief "new deal" man, in a certain sense. During the 1930's he was the head of the work progress administration. He had been a social worker, originally. But when the war broke out in europe, in may of 1940, Hopkins was staying overnight, that night at the White House, and Roosevelt decided that he wanted him nearby. He didn't want him to go home. He needed somebody that he could talk to first thing in the morning, talk to late at night, and he made Hopkins his chief advisor on foreign policy. Hopkins went to see Churchill before Roosevelt met him; went to see Stalin before Roosevelt met him; was really unprecedented in terms... I mean, he makes Kissinger look like a mild-mannered guy in terms of the kind of power that Hopkins had. And he was incredibly loyal to Roosevelt.
LAMB: How long did he live on the second floor of the White House?
Ms. Goodwin: He was there from 1940 to 1942-- end of '42, when he got married, and Roosevelt was sad when he... Eventually stayed there for about six months, with his new wife, but then she finally wanted a house of her own.
LAMB: Here's another bedroom. It's called the "rose room," and you show that Mr. Churchill, Sara, who is?
Ms. Goodwin: Roosevelt's mother, the indomitable mother.
LAMB: And Martha.
Ms. Goodwin: right. Well, that's a pretty interesting room, that room. First, whenever the mother came, she wanted the best bedroom suite, and that was this room, the rose suite. She would come to visit, and maybe once a month, with her maids and her servants, and always being a duchess, in a certain sense, in the white house. And then, also, Princess Martha was an interesting character who... She had come to Washington during the war years, in exile from Norway. Her husband was the crown prince, and her father-in-law was the king of Norway. In fact, her son is currently the king of Norway now. She was beautiful, she was long legged. Roosevelt always liked his women tall, or so it seems. And I think she had a gay-spirited kind of conversation that he just enjoyed, and Eleanor somehow understood that he needed that kind of companionship. So she would visit on weekends, and keep him company in the movies, keep him company at dinners at night, often again when Eleanor was away, and this would be her suite. But when Churchill came, no one else stayed in the suite. Churchill was an incredible character during this period of time. He would come and stay for, like, three or four weeks at a time, and his habits were so exhausting that nobody else could sleep during the period of time he was there. He would awaken in the morning and have wine for breakfast. He would have scotch and soda for lunch; he would have brandy at night, smoking his cigars until 2 a.M.; And when he would finally leave, after being in the suite for three or four weeks, the entire White House staff would have to sleep for 72 hours in order to recuperate from Churchill's visits.
LAMB: you mentioned-- you had it in quote marks in the book-- that the relationship between Princess Martha of Norway and FDR Was romantic?
Ms. Goodwin: some of the people who lived in the White House, at that time, suggested that she was his girlfriend, that there was a real flirtation between the two, and I suspect that that's what the element of the relationship was. It wasn't somebody he was working with, like Missy Lehand. It wasn't some political partner. It wasn't some old friend and companion. It was a flirtatious relationship. Whether it went beyond, you know, kissing and romance and just a sense of pleasure, I don't know, but it certainly was that.
LAMB: also, you show that Anna stayed in one of those rooms on the second floor. She's there in this picture, in the middle, next to her father. What was their relationship?
Ms. Goodwin: well, what had happened is an interesting, and, I think in some ways, some of the most moving moments of this period of time, because Anna had originally been her mother's daughter. When Anna was a young girl, an adolescent, Eleanor had told her the story of Lucy Mercer, and the fact that her father had had this affair with Lucy, long ago, and Anna had taken her mother's side. And, over the years, the two had grown so close that they wrote each other letters two or three times a week, and they saw each other four or five times a year, even when Anna lived on the other coast. But what happened is, in the middle of the war, after Eleanor rejected Franklin's quest to stay home and be his wife again, he got so lonely that he asked their daughter Anna to come and take Missy Lehand's place. Missy, by that point, even though she was only if in her early 40's, had had a stroke, and she could never speak again. It was one of those devastating things for Roosevelt, during the war years. And because he was so lonely without Missy, and his mother had also died, just after Missy's stroke, he asked Anna to come and stay in the white house. And then what happened is, in some way she became his father's daughter-- her father's daughter. She had long legs, she was tall, she loved cocktails, she could gossip at night with him. All the things that Eleanor never found it easy to do, Anna did. And, after a while, I think Eleanor began to feel displaced by her own daughter, so it was a very complicated set of relationships that developed during this time.
LAMB: where do you live?
Ms. Goodwin: Concord, massachusetts. Right on main street, right near where it all began.
LAMB: why Concord?
Ms. Goodwin: well, I think it was a compromise. I love the city. I grew up, actually, outside of New York, and my husband loves the real country. He'd prefer living in Maine, so Concord seemed to be near enough to Boston that I could have my city life, and near enough to country that he could feel he was really living outside of the suburb-- more country than suburb.
LAMB: What's your husband do?
Ms. Goodwin: his name is Richard Goodwin, and he's a writer also. In fact, just recently he's been involved in the "quiz show" scandal movie because his first job, after clerking for Justice Frankfurter, was to investigate the rigged television quiz shows, so he's having a great time right now. He's being portrayed as a 27-year-old actor on the big screen, feeling like decades have dropped off his life, so it's really been fun. But mostly he's a writer.
LAMB: where did you meet him?
Ms. Goodwin: in Harvard. I was teaching at Harvard. I taught a course on the presidency, and taught some American government courses, and he came to finish a book. And I had an office at this little Kennedy Institute, and he had an office right next to mine, so that's how it happened.
LAMB: and you dedicate the book to three people.
Ms. Goodwin: right.
LAMB: who are they?
Ms. Goodwin: three sons. Probably the most important people in my life. One is in his mid-20's; one is a freshman at Amherst College, and the youngest one, thank God, is still at home, in high school. I don't want it to end. I wish they were four, six and eight again.
LAMB: and how many books have you written?
Ms. Goodwin: three.
LAMB: what were the other two?
Ms. Goodwin: well, the first one was "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream," and that came out of the experience, that I will forever treasure, of having been 23 and 24 years old, and working for president Johnson in the white house, and then helping him with his memoirs. I still keep thinking Johnson is still around. I keep thinking he's thinking, "this book on Roosevelts is 700 pages. The one on me was only 350 pages. How can you do that?" So that was the first book, and it was a great experience to try and understand that giant of a man, who I found so sad in his retirement, while he was at the ranch, that it was almost like he had nothing else left in his life once politics was taken from him. So that whole experience, I think, seared into my mind forever, and made up that first book. And then the second one was called "the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," and it was a three-generation history of the Kennedy family; in fact, partly made possible by the fact that I was given access to Rose and Joe Kennedy's private papers that had been in the attic for over 50 years, because my husband had originally been on the White House staff with John Kennedy. So we knew the Kennedy family. So, I think one of the reasons why this book on the Roosevelts means so much is that it's really the first time I've had to slog it through as an ordinary historian, without the advantage of knowing Lyndon Johnson or knowing the Kennedy family, so it's been fun.
LAMB: is there new information in the book?
Ms. Goodwin: oh, yes. I think definitely-- by choosing this period of time, and by focusing on the American home front, rather than the battlefront-- for all the thousands of books that have been written about World War II, there have been very few that focus on what happened here at home, and most of those have been essay kind of books, like a chapter on civil rights, a chapter on the japanese incarceration camps, or on women in the factories, but there have been very little evidence of trying to understand Roosevelt's leadership, how he mobilized this democracy. In some ways, I think, that's his greatest contribution, in a certain sense, to the war, even more than the strategy of the war itself-- how he got our country to produce the weapons for the war. That's what won the war, in lots of ways. And turning around a peace economy; an isolationist economy; an economy that was still in the midst of a depression, and somehow making it so productive is a great story.
LAMB: where did you find the white house ushers' diaries?
Ms. Goodwin: this was one of my most incredible tools that there was for anybody to see. They're in the Roosevelt library, and they're on microfiche. And what happened is, at the end of the day, there would be a White House usher who would record everything that happened during the day: Roosevelt awakens at 7:00; has a massage at 7:15; goes to breakfast, and then they'd record who he had lunch with; who he had dinner with, and then you could use that as a foundation to go. For example, suppose he had lunch with henry stimson, or Ickes or morgenthau, I knew that they all had diaries, so I could go to their diaries to find out what he talked about at lunch. Or they'd record that Eleanor was with joe lash, and I knew that he had a diary. So, in some ways it was like the detective's tool. It was there for anybody to see. They're public, but they hadn't been used before. It was so easy and so wonderful.
LAMB: quick definitions: who is Ickes?
Ms. Goodwin: Harold Ickes was the secretary of the interior, whose son is currently in Mr. Clinton's White House staff, and he was called "the old curmudgeon," at the time.
LAMB: Morgenthau?
Ms. Goodwin: Henry Morgenthau was the secretary of the treasury, and, in fact, he's the subject of one of my favorite stories in the book, because Roosevelt had an annual poker game every year, and it would always be held on the day that the Congress was going to adjourn, and the rule was that whoever was ahead at the moment the speaker of the house called to adjourn would win. On one particular night, Morgenthau was way ahead when the speaker calls to tell Roosevelt he's adjourning at 9:30. So, Roosevelt just pretends that it's somebody else calling-- "i'm sorry, I can't talk to you. I'm in the middle of a poker game," and they continue playing, until finally at midnight, Roosevelt starts winning, and he whispers to an aide, "bring the phone to me," and the aid brings the phone. He said, "oh, mr. Speaker, you're adjourning now. That's fine." Roosevelt wins the game. Total manipulation. Everything is great, until the next morning. Henry morgenthau reads in the newspapers that the Congress actually adjourned at 9:30, and he was so angry that he actually resigned as secretary of the treasury, until Roosevelt charmed him back into it. But there was a real camaraderie among these cabinet members, at the time. They could play poker together as well as work together.
LAMB: as a matter of fact, I remember somebody else resigning, at one point, and FDR Wrote him a letter, and then he writes back... I don't know whether I can find fast enough...
Ms. Goodwin: it's Ickes actually.
LAMB: where... And then he says, "I got fluttery all over"? Did he talk that way?
Ms. Goodwin: it's amazing. I mean, that's right. I mean, Ickes resigned several times. He'd get upset about policy issues, and he would resign. So Roosevelt wrote him a very gracious letter saying, "you can't resign, I need you, you're so important to me, and you're absolutely right." Ickes then wrote back saying, "when I read your letter, I got fluttery all over, I couldn't believe it." He did talk that way, and it showed the kind of awe, in some ways, that they felt for this man who was still their president.
LAMB: I found it. It just says, "your letter," Ickes gratefully replied, "makes me feel all fluttery. To have you write about me as you did, is like an accolade to my spirit," and he goes on.
Ms. Goodwin: I know.
LAMB: now, how did you go about this? Where did you work?
Ms. Goodwin: I worked, in terms of research, largely at the Roosevelt library, and the wonderful thing-- that's in Hyde Park, New York-- is that it made you feel like you were going back in time, because the place, the house where Roosevelt was born, the place that was Eleanor's cottage, at val-kill, looks exactly as it looked when they were there. So sometimes, when you're in the middle of working in a library room and you take a walk around these environs, you can really feel like you're back 50 years in time. It was so wonderful. And then there were these little motels around the area that you stay in, right across from the Roosevelt library, and you do feel like this is what a scholar is supposed to be doing, living right at the place where your subjects lived themselves.
LAMB: where is the library?
Ms. Goodwin: it's in Hyde Park, New York, so for me, from Concord, massachusetts, it was about a three-and-a-half-hour drive; beautiful drive, and the Hudson river far below. The house where Roosevelt was born, which sits only a few feet from the library, is this beautiful house that has a great lawn that goes down to the Hudson river, far below. So you're surrounded by beauty, while you're doing this kind of old-fashioned research.
LAMB: you mention Val-Kill . What's that?
Ms. Goodwin: well, what happened is... That's the cottage that Roosevelt had built for Eleanor and, in typical aristocratic terms, a cottage, actually, was 22 rooms. It wasn't a small, little cottage... But what happened is, in the 1920's, after his affair with Lucy Mercer, and they decided to stay together, it gave Eleanor the freedom to go outside the marriage to find fulfillment, and she became involved with a whole group of women who were activists-- league of women voters, fighting for reform causes; child labor laws, and Sara Delano Roosevelt, Franklin's mother, always looked askance at these women. They would come into the house with their saddle shoes on, and their tweed outfits, and they weren't the kind of fancy people that she was used to, so Eleanor didn't feel comfortable bringing her women political friends to the big house where Franklin, hence Sara, lived.
LAMB: I just want to show the picture here of Mrs. Roosevelt, the mother in the middle.
Ms. Goodwin: and that's the perfect symbolic picture, in the middle. When Franklin went to Harvard, she got a townhouse in boston to be near him. When Franklin and Eleanor got married, Sara got two town houses in New York-- one for her, one for them-- and doors went right in between. So anyway, what happened is, Roosevelt seeing how uncomfortable Eleanor felt about having her friends in the big house, suggested that he would build her her own cottage. And it turned out to be this beautiful 22-room house, about a mile and a half or so from the big house, and it allowed Eleanor, for the first time in her life, to have a home of her own. So she loved the place. And after he died, she actually lived on that place until she herself died.
LAMB: now, if you're coming... If somebody's never been to that part of the country, how far from New York city?
Ms. Goodwin: probably a couple hours from New York city. I know by train it is.
LAMB: on the Hudson river?
Ms. Goodwin: along the Hudson river. In duchess county.
LAMB: and in those years, in the war years, that you're writing about here, domestically, where did Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt spend their time, besides the white house and Hyde Park?
Ms. Goodwin: well, Hyde Parkwas the most important place for both of them. I mean, he went, during the whole presidency, something like 200 times to Hyde Park. So that's the most important place.
LAMB: how would he get there?
Ms. Goodwin: he would get there by train. He would often get on the train in Washington, maybe at 10:00 or 11:00 at night, and it would reach Hyde Parkby the morning. So he'd be... So he'd sleep on the train. He loved traveling by train. He had his own compartment. Because of his polio and his paralysis, he didn't like fast-moving transportation. He hated airplanes, but he could feel grounded on the train. Eleanor was just the opposite. She liked to get places fast, so she only liked to travel by plane, but she would go with him by train, as well.
LAMB: a couple of quick points. When did... What year did he die?
Ms. Goodwin: 1945.
LAMB: do you remember the exact date?
Ms. Goodwin: april 12.
LAMB: and what year did he contract polio, and then have to have the leg irons?
Ms. Goodwin: 1921, when he was only 37 years old, he contracted polio, and I think one of the things I understood more by doing this book than I ever had before, was how much that paralysis was a part of his everyday life. I, like so many people in the country, had assumed that he had conquered the polio somehow and was simply left a bit lame. But, in fact, he was a full paraplegic. He couldn't even get out of bed in the morning without turning his body to the side of the bed, and being helped into his wheelchair by the valet, to get to the bathroom. He couldn't even really walk. He had thick braces on, and if he leaned on the arms of two strong people, he could appear to be maneuvering himself forward. And I think one of my... The most extraordinary moments, when I was doing research on the book, I interviewed Betsy Whitney, who had been married to Jimmy Roosevelt-- the Roosevelt's oldest son-- and she said she asked him once, in the middle of the war, how do you fall asleep at night with all the burdens that you have to face? And as soon as he told her the answer, I knew that that polio was still a huge part of his imagination, because he described that he has his own method of counting sheep. He would imagine that he was a young boy again, at Hyde Park, and there was a favorite sledding hill behind his house, which I've seen from going there, that led to the Hudson river, far below. So, in the presidency, as he's falling asleep at night, he would imagine that he was a young boy again, getting on that sled, and he said he knew every curve of the hill. And when he would get the sled to the bottom of the hill, at the river, he would pick it up, run to the top, and do it over and over again, until he fell asleep. And as soon as I heard that, I thought, "my god, this man is the most powerful man in the world, and yet he's imagining, when he falls asleep at night, and getting solace from thinking that he can run, sled, walk again; the very things that were denied him at the height of his powers at 37 years old."
LAMB: this is a little bit of a diversion, but... And we need to get the Lucy Mercer Rutherford story down someplace here... But at one point, you talk about, when he would go from Washington to Hyde Park, he figured out a way to stop and see her in new jersey.
Ms. Goodwin: that's right. She had an estate in Alamoochie, new jersey, and he somehow... He loved to figure out maps, anyway. He loved old geography things, so he figured out the railroad lines, and knew that if he went along a different pattern-- and he had to convince the secret service it was safe for him to do this-- that he could spend an afternoon with Lucy. Now, this was not until the last year of his life. You know, I think some people had assumed, and myself included, that he probably had known Lucy all of his life. I had heard about this affair, back in 1918. I knew he had seen her and was with her when he died, so I thought maybe it had happened all the way through that period of time. But the truth was that he had kept his pledge to Eleanor not to see her again, really until the last year of his life, after Eleanor had refused to be with him and be his wife again; after Anna had come back into the White House, and after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. And I think, in that last year of his life, I believe he knew in that last year that he was dying. And he went to bernard baruch's plantation in... In, I guess it was march or april of '44, to recover, and it was there that he saw Lucy Mercer, essentially for the first time since 1918, and she had just lost her husband, winthrop rutherfurd, who had been a very wealthy businessman, come from an old family, and so she was widowed. And I believe, when he saw her then, that what it did more than anything, was to awaken in him a memory of what it was like when he was young, before the polio. He had known Lucy three years before his polio attack, and now before his heart was giving way, and he decided that he wanted to see her regularly.
LAMB: how was... How did he start the original affair with her?
Ms. Goodwin: she had been a social secretary working for Eleanor. What happened is, when he was assistant secretary of the navy, Eleanor and Franklin moved to Washington, in 1914, and Eleanor felt worried about the whole social circle of invitations that you would get to go to, because you had to know which "A" list, "B" list you belonged to go to, as assistant secretary of the navy, so she hired this young woman, Lucy Mercer, who came from a blue-blood family in Washington, and yet needed money because her father had been an alcoholic. And so Lucy came, three or four days a week, and worked for the Roosevelts, and somewhere in that period of time, between 1914 and 1918, a relationship developed between Lucy and Franklin.
LAMB: How long was the affair?
Ms. Goodwin: well, as far as we know, it was sometime... Probably two or three years in that period of time, between '14 and '18, but it came to an abrupt end when Eleanor happened to come upon a packet of love letters that Lucy had written to Franklin. She later said, when she opened these letters, that the bottom fell out of her world, and she actually offered Franklin a divorce immediately. But I'm convinced it was the last thing he wanted. I think he had never meant for the marriage to be over, by his relationship with Lucy. In some ways, I think Lucy's attraction for him was that she was confident, she was gay, she was easy; whereas Eleanor, during that period of her life, was still haunted by the insecurities of her own childhood, where her mother had told her she was ugly when she was a little girl, and her father was an alcoholic, and the mother-in-law, Sara, was being intrusive about the kids, and it was hard for her to develop a full sense of herself. And so I think Franklin felt attracted to this happy, young, woman, Lucy Mercer. But when confronted with the thought of losing Eleanor, it was the last thing he wanted.
LAMB: When did people... Back there in those days did... What did the public know? Did they know about polio? Did they know about the braces on his legs? Did they know about Lucy Mercer? Did they know about Missy Lehand? Did they know about princess Martha of Norway?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, this is one of the most interesting things to me in the world. I mean, certain members of the press knew about Lucy Mercer. They knew that Missy Lehand lived in the White House. They knew there were an unconventional set of relationships in the White House. They certainly knew that Roosevelt was a paraplegic, and yet there was, then, a certain kind of sense that a president's private life is his private life. And unless whatever he's doing has an impact on his public activities... I talked to one old reporter who said, "who are we to judge? We're not angels ourselves, so it wouldn't be sporting somehow to report on these unconventional relationships in the White House." And as far as the paralysis goes, what astonished me was that the majority of the people thought, as I did, that he was simply lame, and the reason they were allowed to feel that way was that not a single newsreel ever showed him in his wheelchair, on his braces, being crippled. There was almost like an unspoken code of honor, on the part of the press, that the president wasn't to be seen that way, and if a young photographer came along, and tried to snap a picture of the president... Sometimes reporters would see him being actually carried from a car into a building like a child, and yet they never took a picture. If a young guy came along and tried to do that, an older guy would knock the camera to the ground. So, as a result, there was a kind of dignity to the office of the presidency then, that I think is really missing right now, on both the side of the press and the president. Roosevelt understood the importance of holding his private life secure. He would never have thought about talking about his mother's domineeringness, or his feelings about Lucy Mercer. I mean, there was a reserve that I suspect served us better, at that time.
LAMB: You also talk about-- and it's been talked about before-- I mean, by volumes, of Mrs. Roosevelt's daily column. Did she write it herself?
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, did she ever write it herself. Oh, absolutely. In fact, if you read them, you can see, the only way it was possible for her to write that column, was really a recording of what she did during the day. And the only reason the column worked-- because it wasn't high thoughts, it wasn't great moments of issues-- but it was so warm, just as she was, and it was so full of activity, because her schedule was even more extraordinary than his. When you looked at those ushers' diaries, her daily life would be three times as long as Franklin Roosevelt's. She never stopped. She traveled to migrant worker camps. She went into the mines. There's those famous cartoons of the miners looking up and saying, "oh, here comes Eleanor Roosevelt." She went to visit blacks in the south. She went to.C.C. Camps, and that kind of traveling gave her experiences that she could recount in her daily column, and just tell people what she was thinking and feeling, as she met so many Americans in the course of her travels.
LAMB: What would happen if you took the Roosevelt presidency and moved it to modern-day America? Column every day, radio show, you know, handicapped, affairs and all that. How much of this would still be hidden?
Ms. Goodwin: It's really scary to think about, because if Eleanor and Franklin had not been allowed that network of friendships in the White House that allowed them to sustain themselves, while they were going through the difficult days of depression and the war, they wouldn't have been as strong as leaders as they were. I'm convinced that Roosevelt needed the relaxation, for example, as we said earlier, that Missy could provide, and when Eleanor wasn't there. But suppose the press was saying, "well, who is this woman? She's his secretary. She's in love with him. What's going on here?" At one point, Missy had been involved with Harry Hopkins. Can you imagine the press loving... "Oh, my god, Harry's living there, too. Is Harry involved with Missy?" And I think, in some ways, that if we hadn't had, at that time, that kind of space for their private lives, they wouldn't have been replenished as political leaders. And so, too... Now, the paralysis is more interesting, in some ways. You almost wish that Roosevelt had had the courage to go to the public, and say to the public, "I'm crippled and it's okay." Because they loved him so much, in part because of his courage and his strength, but only at the very end of his life did he ever give a speech sitting down. When he came back from the altar, he was so tired that he finally excused himself; instead of standing on his braces, and sat down. And, for some reason, that speech made an enormous emotional impact on the country, because they then saw that he was conquering this disability. But, at that time, nobody thought you could go to your country and tell them that you were a paraplegic; that they wouldn't allow you to be their president.
LAMB: How much time did he spend in Warm Springs, Georgia?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, during the last presidential years in the war, he was only down there three or four times, but prior to the war, he went down every Thanksgiving because...
LAMB: why?
Ms. Goodwin: He had an annual dinner for the patients at Warm Springs. He had originally created the whole Warm Springs rehabilitation center, in the 1920's. He went down there, initially because the hot springs that came out of the ground naturally in that area, were thought to help people with polio. So he created a whole rehab center, and lots of patients would be down there, and I think somehow his contagious confidence helped them to get through their own polio. And so he liked to spend every Thanksgiving with them. That was a pledge he had made so.
LAMB: Did you go to all these places?
Ms. Goodwin: Yeah, I went to Warm Springs, and what's so amazing about it, is that it is such a primitive setting. I mean, you look at the little White House-- which is what they called the house where Roosevelt would stay-- and there's this tiny living room- dining room that's one combined room. His bedroom is the size of a twin... You know, like a small boy's bedroom. And then there's one other bedroom, that was where Missy Lehand would stay; and one other guest room, where Eleanor would stay, and that's it. And you keep thinking about imagining much more luscious surroundings for a president of the United States. But he loved the simplicity of it, and it tells you a lot about him to see that.
LAMB: What about Campobello?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, Campobello was the place that had been his mother's estate when he was a young boy, and it's up off the border of maine and canada, and it was a beautiful summer home which had been very much a part of Eleanor and Franklin's early romantic days. But it was also the place where he got polio, so that they didn't really travel there much longer, after those early years. They went there a lot in the teens and the early 1920's, but after he got polio, Franklin's wife, Eleanor, would go up there a lot, because she loved it, but he didn't go back there very much after that.
LAMB: What impact did it have on him that he was an only child?
Ms. Goodwin: Absolute critical impact. I mean, he was not only an only child, but his father was a sickly man, from the time he was young, and his mother was a very young mother, who was told she could never have other children after Franklin was born, because it had been a tough birth. So all of her love, which was large, got focused on this child. And I think about it, sometimes. I mean, I think she gave him probably the greatest asset a mother can give a child, that sense of unconditional love. But because he was so important to her, she never allowed him the freedom to feel like he could stand apart from her. You have the feeling that she hovered over him all of his life. And even though maybe that's the source of his confidence, one of my favorite quotes by Churchill says that when you met Roosevelt-- and I think Sara Roosevelt created this in her son-- he had such inner elan, such confidence, such sparkle-- that it was like opening your first bottle of champagne, to be around him. And I think that's a great gift a mother gives a child. But if only she'd known when to separate, I think he would have had an easier time with intimacy with other people.
LAMB: As you know, if you go to the Hyde Park residence-- the two big chairs by the fireplace-- one is marked "Sara," the other is marked "Franklin." No chair for Eleanor.
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, exactly. In fact, you go through as a tourist, and the hostess just says it to you as if it's natural. "Here's where Sara sat. Here's where Franklin sat." Then you say, "Well, where did Eleanor sit?" And they just say, "oh, wherever she could find a chair." And then you look at the dining room, and Sara was at one end, as the hostess, Franklin's at the other end, as the host, and, once again, Eleanor just had to find a place wherever she could. That house, "that big house at Hyde Park," as they called it, reflects that Sara remained the mistress of that house throughout all of their married life. Even after she died, there's this sad moment when Eleanor wants to change the house around a little to make it her house, now that her mother-in-law's finally dead, and Franklin can't bear the thought of making any changes in his boyhood home.
LAMB: I know this isn't in the book, but it's a little map that they give you at... We'll get a closer shot at it here, at Hyde Park, but it shows the bedrooms on the second floor. You have Franklin Delano Roosevelt's bedroom and then Eleanor Roosevelt's bedroom, and that's where his mother stayed. How often were they all there together?
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, well, Sara would always be there when Franklin and Eleanor were there, and what's astonishing to look at is the relative size of those bedrooms. When you see Franklin's, it's very large, it's spacious; and you see Sara's, it's very large and spacious; and Eleanor has a single bed in what must have been the dressing room for one of the bedrooms in between the two of them. That's the part of Eleanor that she obviously didn't have to take that small of a room, but there was a part of her that was a martyr, in a certain sense, and liked to have tough conditions to live up to as a challenge, because she had been used to those as a child, and I found that part very sad.
LAMB: Harry Hopkins died at age 55. I'm writing... I wrote this down when I was going through your book. Lucy Mercer died at 57, Malvina Thompson was...
Ms. Goodwin: Eleanor's secretary; her Missy Lehand.
LAMB: Died at 61. Princess Martha died at 53?
Ms. Goodwin: Yeah.
LAMB: Lorena Hickok died at... She was 75. Anna, the daughter, died at 64 or 60...? Well, yeah...
Ms. Goodwin: Yeah, she's pretty young, too.
LAMB: How come?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, Harry Hopkins, just to start with him, when he was at the end of the "new deal" period, he was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach, and he had almost his entire stomach removed, but somehow public life and public service gave him an extra lease on life, and when Roosevelt made him his foreign policy advisor, he somehow was able to get through what most people would have died from. He was so sick during the war. He looked like he was dying. He was so thin, his body was being eaten away. And I think what happened is, after Roosevelt died, and there was no longer room for him in public life, then he himself finally died. It was almost like... Churchill said he was like "a crumbling lighthouse." He was so full of fire and energy, it kept him alive, but his body was giving away on him. To understand what happened to princess Martha, I think she, too, had had some illnesses during her 40's, and she died relatively young, in her 50's. And so did Lucy. I mean, tuberculosis somehow spread and something bad happened to them. It seems really strange, especially now as we get older, these people seem much younger dying than I would have thought when I was younger.
LAMB: How old was FDR When he died?
Ms. Goodwin: FDR Was 63 when he died.
LAMB: And how old was Eleanor Roosevelt?
Ms. Goodwin: Eleanor lasted from 1882 to 1961, so she's 70-something or other. She lasted an extra 17 years after FDR's death.
LAMB: The kids.
Ms. Goodwin: That's not...
LAMB: How many kids were there?
Ms. Goodwin: That's not a... That's not a happy story in many ways. There were five children. The daughter Anna was the oldest, and then there were four sons: Jimmy, Elliott, John, and, um... And somebody whose name I'm not... Franklin... Franklin, Jr. And I think what happened is, it was hard for the five of them to grow up in the shadow of that giant oak of their parents. And for the four boys... Actually, the five children had a... Somewhat combination of 18 marriages between them. I think they had a hard time apprenticing themselves to becoming people in their own right. They wanted to skip steps and suddenly become important, run for senate, run for governor, as we often see happening, and they never got their own confidence on their own. It's not an easy part of this whole story.
LAMB: Anna married twice. Her second husband jumps out of a hotel room in New York city?
Ms. Goodwin: Right, he was...
LAMB: How come?
Ms. Goodwin: He was a manic depressive, and was under sedation for his psychological illness. They had already separated, but he was always troubled. You can see it even during their marriage. They write each other these amazingly romantic letters-- "my one and only, you're the most precious I've ever known..." You feel them clinging to each other in an almost unnatural way. And shortly after the war, her husband, whose name was John Boettiger, felt that he no longer had the platform of the Roosevelt presidency to stand on, now that Roosevelt was dead, and couldn't make his way in the publishing world anymore, and got so sad that he jumped out of a window and killed himself.
LAMB: Did you interview John Boettiger, Jr.?
Ms. Goodwin: I talked to all three of Anna's children. There was Eleanor Seagraves, her oldest daughter; and a guy named Curtis Roosevelt, who's her second child; and then Johnny Boettiger, jr., The son.
LAMB: John died at age 65, the son of FDR. He had two marriages, but died a Republican?
Ms. Goodwin: Yes, he was the only one who became a Republican. He actually became a Republican, pretty early in his life, much to the great dismay of the family.
LAMB: FDR, Jr. Died at 74, married four times.
Ms. Goodwin: Right.
LAMB: What was he like?
Ms. Goodwin: Well he did have his father's charm, and people who knew him said that when he smiled, you could see FDR And that sparkling personality, all over again. And he did have some success in politics, and in fact, was very instrumental in John Kennedy's campaign in West Virginia because Roosevelt was still a magic name in West Virginia, at the time of the 1960 election, and they sent FDR, Jr., Down there to campaign for Kennedy, and it was considered one of the things that turned the tide.
LAMB: Elliott married five times.
Ms. Goodwin: Elliott married five times.
LAMB: Died at age 80, in 1990. What was he like?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, I did get a chance to talk to him before he died. And again, there'd be that twinkle in the blue eyes that gave you a memory of Franklin Roosevelt, but he had had a tough time finding himself. I think the alcoholism that was in Eleanor's family had visited itself upon Elliott. He had a little bit of success in politics. He was a mayor in Palm Beach, but mainly what he did was he wrote mystery stories, after awhile, in which Eleanor Roosevelt was the detective. So there was always some dead body, and Eleanor, his mother, becomes a detective. So... And he wrote a series of sort of tell-all books about the family that all the other kids found very disquieting.
LAMB: James died at age 83, in 1991; ran "Democrats for Nixon?"
Ms. Goodwin: Right, I mean, you wonder what Eleanor and Franklin would have thought. He had four marriages, too. Now, he had had some success as a Congressman for awhile, from California, but then he never was able to hold onto his career or to his family very easily, so it's not been an easy time, as I say, for any of those children.
LAMB: Would you mind jumping to the end, and telling as much as you can remember about the last couple of days of FDR?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, what had happened was that, after he came back from the Yalta Conference, and after he gave this major speech to the Congress in march of 1945, everybody could see that his health was failing, and somehow when he went to Warm Springs, Georgia, there had always been this sense that he would recuperate by going down there; that something about the air, the beauty, the simplicity of the place... So they decided that he'd make an extended trip to Warm Springs. So, at the end of march, he went down to Warm Springs, and indeed, it did seem... He brought with him his two spinster cousins, Laura Delano who was a... These are characters, too, these cousins... And Margaret Suckley, and they kept him company, and he didn't have that much work to do, when he was down there, and for the first week or so, it seemed like he might be getting a little bit of his bounce back, getting some weight back, because he was losing weight tremendously in that last year. And then at a certain point, he invited Lucy Mercer to come and stay with him, and she arrived about four or five days before he died; stayed in a little guest house right across the way from his little white house, and brought with her a painter friend, Madame Shoumatoff, who wanted to do a portrait of Roosevelt. And then what happens is that he seems to be getting better. He takes these little driving trips with Lucy. There was this favorite place he had, Dowdell's Knob, where you could see the whole valley in Georgia, from that place, and Lucy later wrote that she'd never forget that day when he talked to her about all the plans he had, after the presidency was over, and what he hoped to do with the world, and how he had still idealism left about what the world would be like after the war was over. But, then on a certain morning, on April 12, he woke up, and people surprisingly thought that he looked better than he had for weeks. His color was radiant almost. Probably it was, as doctors later said, that the embolism that later killed him was already beginning to be felt in his skin and in his coloring. But he nevertheless kept everybody company. He was a wonderful storyteller, so all that sum... All that morning, he was talking to Lucy and her friend, Madame Shoumatoff, who was painting a portrait of him, at that time. The two spinster cousins are there, and then, suddenly, in the middle of talking to them, at about noon or so, on April 12th, he just suddenly said, "I have a terrific headache" and he slumped forward. And one of the cousins went over to him, thinking he had dropped his cigarette or something, and then she realized that he had become unconscious. So immediately they called for doctors, they called for help, and they carried him into his bedroom. And Lucy knew enough to leave at that moment in time. She knew she shouldn't be there. So she and Madame Shoumatoff did leave. But then what happened is he died about an hour and a half later. He never regained consciousness. And they finally called Eleanor and told her. She was in the middle of giving a speech, in Washington, when she found out, and she knew, she said, the minute the phone rang, that something had happened. She could just feel it. And they didn't tell her that he had died, they just said "you have to come back to the white house immediately."
LAMB: They called her away from the dais...
Ms. Goodwin: They called her away from the dais. She was actually... Had just finished giving a speech, and someone was doing a piano concert that she was listening to, so she excused herself. Again, she had this amazing presence, and said "I must leave now, but I'll be back to see you, at some point." She went to the White House, and they told her that he had died. So she immediately called for Harry Truman, the vice-president, to come, so she could give the news to Harry Truman. And that's one of those celebrated moments in history. When Truman says to her, "is there anything I can do for you?" And her first response is, "no, but is there anything I can do for you, for you're the one in trouble now?" But then she had the presence of mind to ask him, was it ethical for her to use a government plane to go down to Warm Springs to see her husband's body? And, of course, Truman provided that for her. You can't imagine people even asking that today. So she gets down to Warm Springs, Georgia-- and as you would do when there's a death like this-- she asked her cousins who were there-- Laura Delano, in particular-- "tell me everything that happened in the last 24 hours." And Laura, I believe, had always loved FDR, And probably always had been jealous of Eleanor, for she maliciously decided to tell Eleanor that Lucy had been there. She didn't have to. Nobody would have told Eleanor. She just said maybe she would have found out anyway. And, then when pushed further, she elected to tell her that Lucy had been at the White House that last year, and that Anna, her daughter, had been the one to make those arrangements. I'm... I can't even imagine what it must have been like for Eleanor to have to present the strong face to the world that she did by getting in that train and going back with her husband, on that famous train ride from Warm Springs to Washington, knowing inside this deep hurt that she felt. When she got to the White House, Anna was there, and all that Anna could say was-- as her mother confronted her, really angrily, "How could you do this to me?"-- All that Anna said later she could say was "I didn't know what to do, I loved you both. And I felt caught in a cross fire." And Anna later said that she was sure that their relationship had been destroyed forever. She thought she had lost her mother. And then what happened... I knew I didn't want to end the book, at that point-- even though a death is a natural place to end it-- because I just felt so sad, at that conjury of emotions, so I decided to follow that story through the summer and the fall of '45, after his death. And then, thank God, what I was able to find is that, as Eleanor traveled the country again that summer, everywhere she went, people kept telling her how much they loved her husband. People that she had thought were her people-- the poor people,taxi drivers, porters-- felt that their lives were so much better off, at the end of the war, than at the start. And she'd been fighting him all through the war. She wanted the war to be a vehicle for social reform on civil rights; on day care in the factory. She kept wanting more than he could provide. But now she saw, she later said, in the summer of '45, that the country was indeed a better place; that blacks had worked in factories they never had before. They'd done well in the military; that women had this great sense of mastery from having been 60% of the workforce during the war; veterans were going to college on the G.I. Bill of Rights; unions were stronger than ever before; and she said, as she heard all these tales, she began to feel a sense of how much the country owed to Franklin Roosevelt. And, as she felt that, she was somehow, amazingly, able to forgive him for what had happened. And then, finally in August of '45, after the bomb was dropped, she was able to go to... And the war came to an end... She was able to go to Anna, her daughter, and forgive her as well, affording a reconciliation between the two of them that really lasted for the rest of their lives. And I must say, as a biographer, when I learned that, my heart just felt so full in knowing this woman has done something I'm not sure I could have done. Could I have the kind of spirit to forgive such a deep hurt like that? But it was so wonderful for her that she did, because it meant that the rest of her life, those next 17 years-- instead of harboring bitterness toward her husband-- she loved him even more than... In some ways, than in life, and she was able to incorporate all of his strengths into herself. She had always been the idealistic one in the relationship and he was the practical one. She always said she was the one who thought about what should be done, and he thought about what could be done. But now, somehow, after he died, she became partly more like him. She was a much better politician after his death than before, because now she had to be both of them, not just herself. So it was an amazing end to this story. And it makes you realize, you know, if you looked at this story from the outside in, as the media would probably do today, they'd accuse him of infidelity; they might accuse him of harassment for his relationship with his secretary, Missy Lehand; maybe accuse Anna of betrayal of her mother, and yet none of those labels would be right. I mean, I'm absolutely convinced these people never meant to hurt one another. They were simply trying to get through their lives with the best possible mixture of love and respect, through work and affection. And it seems to me that the challenge is not to do what's so prevalent today in biography--to expose and to label and to stereotype. What I really wanted to try and do was to extend empathy; to understand why they needed all these relationships, and not to judge them harshly because of their own human needs.
LAMB: You have some references to the fact that she went in to stand by his body at House, she did the same thing, and the ushers kept everybody out. How'd you find that out?
Ms. Goodwin: One of the ushers at the White House, who was there when she asked him to close the door, was actually inside the room, and he wrote in a memoir that he saw that, as she stood by the body, she opened the casket one last time so that she could say good-bye to him, privately, and he was standing right there, and he wrote it in a memoir. And so, too, people at Warm Springs wrote memoirs about those last minutes. Everybody kept somewhat of a diary during that period of time, I think knowing how important it would be for later history.
LAMB: You also include a letter between Lucy Mercer and Anna. Where did you get that?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, that letter was actually in Anna's papers at the FDR Library.
LAMB: Had that ever been published before?
Ms. Goodwin: There was one... Johnny Boettiger, Jr., The son of Anna, had written a wonderful little book about his mother, and his father and his father's death, and that's the first time I'd ever seen that letter published. What's so wonderful about the letter is, that after FDR died, Anna felt so bereft during that period of time-- because she thought she'd lost both her father and her mother-- and at some point, she called Lucy. And Lucy then, maybe three or four weeks after FDR'S death, Lucy writes back this fabulous letter just saying what that call meant, because she, too, was feeling totally out of it. Here's this man that she had loved, had been such a good friend to her, and she couldn't even express publicly or openly anything about their relationship. She's not part of the funeral, she's just off on her own. But in that letter, she says to Anna "I want you to know how much your father loved you." And she tells Anna-- it's such a generous letter-- how many times Anna's father, FDR, had talked to Lucy about how much he loved his daughter. And for a daughter who had lost her father so much-- to hear that confirmed, I guess, was so important, that Anna's daughter told me that Anna kept that letter in her bedside table for the rest of her life, because somehow it confirmed not only how much her father loved her, but maybe confirmed her not feeling too guilty about putting Lucy together with her father because it shows what a wonderful woman Lucy was.
LAMB: Did you ever find yourself getting emotional about any of this?
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, absolutely. I mean, not only emotional, but you know, you live with these characters for six years. It took me longer to work on this book, I'm afraid, than the war to be fought. That was what was pretty embarrassing. I would find myself talking to Franklin and Eleanor; talking to Harry Hopkins and Lorena Hickok; to Anna, as if they were still alive. I mean, you really feel their presence, and when bad things happen to them; when one of them hurts one another, you feel it. I mean, that's the only way you can do it, when you get so absorbed in all of this.
LAMB: Where'd you write it?
Ms. Goodwin: Mostly at home. I have a study right on the second floor of my house. We live right on the main street in Concord, so it's wonderful. You can walk right into the town. And I filled the study with pictures of Franklin and Eleanor; with pictures of the war; Rosie the Riveter, and pictures of the women going to work in the factories, so that the ambience felt like world war, II. And I got all the books I could find on this era. I wanted them with me this time. I love libraries, and usually you use libraries a lot, but in this case, I wanted to be able to have the books as much present, so I went to every used bookstore, and so the whole room was filled with Roosevelt and world war, II books. so it was a great place to work.
LAMB: How do you write?
Ms. Goodwin: I fear I write in longhand. I am so primitive, still. I cannot think on the typewriter. I've never been able to. So I write it all out in longhand, and then the worst stage is I, then, copy it all over, so that a typist can read the writing. And that's when I edit, when I copy it all over. And then I gave it to a typist who would type it up on a computer, and give it back to me. And then I didn't really look at it all until the whole first draft was done. And then, finally, at the very end, when I have to really edit the thing, we put it all on my husband's computer, and he taught me how to actually work on the computer to edit. I'm not sure I can still write on it originally, because I don't think I can think on it, but at least I've learned how to edit on the computer, so I felt very proud.
LAMB: What time of day do you write?
Ms. Goodwin: Usually, I start early in the morning. My husband and I both get up really early. For some reason, he awakens, like, at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning, so he gets me up to go have breakfast with him, and sometimes we work out, if we're in one of those moods, which we're not always in, and then we both start working pretty early, even sometimes before the kids go to school at 7:00, and work until, like, the middle of the afternoon, and then can go play tennis or go do errands. I mean, that's the fun about having a husband who's in the same line of business. You can take your breaks together.
LAMB: Now, when you... The actual writing you said took six years; the whole research project and everything else. How long did it actually take you to write it?
Ms. Goodwin: I would guess, of the six years, probably four of them were research and two of them were writing. And even in the last two years of writing, I still needed to do more research. You'd come upon something and you wouldn't know the answer to it, so you'd have to back to Hyde Park. So I was probably at the library there within weeks of finishing the book.
LAMB: Your favorite thing in the book?
Ms. Goodwin: I think my favorite thing in the book is the discovery that Eleanor and Franklin still loved each other, during this period of time. The conventional wisdom among historians was, that after the affair with Lucy Mercer in 1918, their marriage had become a pure political partnership. And I was so happy to discover, even though it meant discovering that they could still hurt each other, during this period, that there were still alive emotions. They're were yearnings. They kept missing each other. I almost felt like I wanted to push them together, because I could feel that love between them. But I was very glad to find that out.
LAMB: You knew Lyndon Johnson. You wrote a book on him, worked for him. Did you know John F. Kennedy?
Ms. Goodwin: No. I met him once when I was a girl. I knew the family pretty well, but not John F. Kennedy.
LAMB: Did you know Jacqueline Kennedy?
Ms. Goodwin: Yes.
LAMB: And did you... What's the closest you got to the Roosevelts?
Ms. Goodwin: I guess the closest I got... I never saw Franklin or Eleanor, personally. The closest I got were their two sons, who I interviewed before they died. And then all the children of those children, who were really very helpful to me.
LAMB: Of the three books, and all the thinking about these politicians, who's your favorite?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, I think I'll probably always be most grateful to Lyndon Johnson, but not for the reasons that you might think. I think watching him, in those last years of his life, when I was with him on his ranch helping him on his memoirs, was such a searing experience to see a man who had no other resources in his life, but politics. He didn't know how to get through the days without politics. He used to have mock meetings in the morning to figure out what to do during the day, and it would be which cows we're going to be giving the itch medicine; which tractors were going to be used that day. He had to have meetings like he'd had in the White House, but no longer is it bills on the hill, it's the ranch. It was almost like a crazy setting for him. And at night, he couldn't go to sleep until he knew how many people were coming through the L.B.J. Library. He wanted more people to go through that library than were going through the Kennedy library. So, after a while he'd say, "get them in. Free doughnuts, free coffee, anything." But, basically, what I saw was a man who was so sad that he couldn't even be alone. When I'd be down there, he'd ask me to stay outside his room when he took a nap. He would wake me up at 5:30, in the morning, to talk to him, and when you're 23 years old, I think you think that the end of the most exciting thing in the world would be to become president of the United States. And yet I saw in him somebody who had not balanced that success with family, with love, with friendship, with sports, with anything else, so that it left him so bereft, at the end, that I think the impact it had on me was to make me know that success at that price wouldn't be worth it. And not long after that experience of watching him die, I got married and had children, and I think one of the reasons it takes me so long to write these books, is that I wanted to be with those kids while they were little. I didn't want to ever be left, like Lyndon Johnson, with 700 books at the end of my life, but nothing else in it. So there's no question that that had such an impact. When President Carter was president, he asked me to be the head of the peace corps, and it was something I would have loved to do at some other time, but the kids were little, and I just remembered Lyndon Johnson, and I didn't even feel sad, not being able to do it, because I knew the kids would be grown all too quickly, and I didn't want to end up that way. So nothing can ever compete with that, probably.
LAMB: Where were you born?
Ms. Goodwin: In Rockville Center, New York.
LAMB: Rockefeller Center?
Ms. Goodwin: No, not Rockefeller-- Rockville Center.
LAMB: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't hear...
Ms. Goodwin: No, that's okay. My family originally came from Brooklyn, and then moved out to Long Island, and that's why I was a huge baseball fan. My real love of history started with baseball, because my father taught me to keep score when I was seven years old, and somehow I would recreate the games for him when he came home from work-- the Brooklyn Dodger games-- and I thought without me he'd never know what happened to the Brooklyn dodgers, because he never told me all the scores were in the newspaper the next day. So I was so proud of what I was doing every day, and that's probably where I started to love history.
LAMB: Where did you go to college?
Ms. Goodwin: I went to Colby College, in Maine, and then I went to Harvard graduate school, and got a Ph.D. In government at Harvard.
LAMB: What was your thesis on?
Ms. Goodwin: My thesis was in constitutional law, actually. It was on two attempts to overturn supreme court decisions-- Dirksen, on the prayer in the schools; and the one man-one vote decision-- and in both cases, the amendments failed.
LAMB: Going to write another book?
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, sure. What else can I do? My husband and I are actually going to work on a book together, which may be a disaster. I remember interviewing President Carter once, and he said the biggest mistake he made was working on a book with his wife Rosalynn. They almost got divorced. But we're going to do a book together on presidential decisions, and take about 15 decisions, like Truman firing Macarthur; and Lincoln at Fort Sumter; Johnson getting civil rights through the Congress. Each one will illustrate a different power of the presidency, and each one will be told as a story. I want each one to be a dramatic moment in that president's life, so that a young person reading it, like in college, would get a history of the presidency, but through these great decisions. So I'm hoping they'll love history as much as we do.
LAMB: What do your kids think of all this?
Ms. Goodwin: Well, you know the interesting thing is, because we've been home so much of the time when we work, they haven't really seen the end results, until now, as teenagers. They see this book out. They see their father in the "quiz show" movie, as being played as the 27-year-old. One of them came out of the movie said, "dad, you're a stallion again"-- you know, somehow that sense of pride. So that it isn't like a career where they're confronting daily who they're parents are. We've been much more quiet and at home. I do television at home, so people are much more aware, because I do local commentary for our ABC affiliate in Boston, and do a weekly television show, which I've done for 12 years. When we go on the streets, people will know me from that, so the kids are sort of queazy about getting stopped all the time. But as far as the writing goes, it's been the most fabulous thing to combine with family life, because we're home almost all the time.
LAMB: We haven't got much time, but, you know, when you go up to FDR'S home and you see the library and the home, and then Val-kill-- which is a couple of miles away-- where Eleanor Roosevelt spent a lot of her time, what was your thoughts about... What kind of a family feeling would that have been-- she over there, and him over at the other place?
Ms. Goodwin: And the thing that's so striking in seeing the two separate places is how different they are. The big house of Sara and Franklin's is so perfectly put together. The china all matches. All the furniture is gorgeous. Eleanor's house has all mixed-matched china. Every chair in the living room is a different size, so that a fat person and a tall person and a thin person and a short person would be comfortable in the chairs. You know how opposite their temperaments were. She was a much more... She liked to make people feel at ease, and he loved the elegance, I think, of that first place. So, in some ways, they were never meant for each other, but thank God for the country, and for themselves, these opposite temperaments attracted when they were young, and had enough to keep them going through this long marriage.
LAMB: I know we... This is not fair, with a minute to go, but how about the relationship between her women friends at Val-kill? A lot's been written about that. What do you think the relationship was?
Ms. Goodwin: I think it's mostly a relationship where Eleanor was loved by somebody, particularly Lorena Hickok. For the first time, she felt the center of somebody else's life. I know some people have claimed that that means that maybe she was a lesbian, as this woman, Lorena Hickock was. I don't think that's necessarily so. I think the most important thing to understand is that this woman loved her, and she loved her, and helped her to become a better first lady. The truth is, historians don't know whether they went beyond hugs and kisses, and sometimes people try to appropriate Eleanor, one way or the other. But I think Eleanor would be the first person-- if she came back today, and knew that if she were considered a lesbian and it gave a role model to younger people, making them feel better about themselves, she'd probably be the first to say "that's fine," but I don't think she would have ever defined herself that way.
LAMB: "No Ordinary Time" is the title of this book. It's about the warriors on the homefront, with FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. Here you have Doris Kearns Goodwin. Thank you very much.
Ms. Goodwin: Oh, you're so welcome.


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