Marist College Professor Featured at FDR Memorial Celebration

Photos Courtesy: FDR Memorial Legacy Committee and The FDR Memorial Archive

June 8, 2022 – Marist College Professor of History Dr. David Woolner has dedicated much of his career in part to documenting the life of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Dr. Woolner is a Resident Historian and Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, and author and editor of books chronicling the former President’s life.

That deep background led to Dr. Woolner being chosen to participate in a panel discussion in May on the 25th Anniversary of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. The panel was hosted by Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and MSNBC and also included former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation, and Mary Eileen Dolan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee, which organized the event.

The panel discussion, which touched on topics on FDR’s legacy that are still very relevant today, was part of a celebration spanning several days on the Memorial’s background and history. The discussion spanned topics such as defense of democracy, managing a financial crisis to managing international affairs.

image of Dr. David Woolner
Dr. David Woolner, Courtesy: FDR Memorial Legacy Committee

“It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of the events marking the 25th anniversary of the unveiling of the FDR Memorial in Washington, and quite moving to see how the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt continues to resonate in today’s world,” Dr. Woolner remarked.

“Given the challenges we face today—from the war in Ukraine to the struggle against COVID 19—there is much we can learn from FDR’s leadership. His ability to lift a paralyzed nation out of the depths of the Great Depression in spite of the fact that he was unable to walk or stand without the assistance of others stands as a fitting reminder of how we might address our own battle against the pandemic,” Dr. Woolner said.

Dr. Woolner is the author of The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace and is editor/co-editor of books such as, including FDR’s World: War and FDR the Vatican, and the Roman Catholic Church in America. He also served as historical advisor to the Ken Burns film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and for numerous special exhibitions at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and is the editor for the book series, The World of the Roosevelts.

image of The FDR Memorial Archive. Photo by Wally Gobetz
The FDR Memorial Archive. Photo by Wally Gobetz

The memorial was dedicated in 1997 by President Bill Clinton and is maintained by the National Parks Service. It uses elements of stone, water, and landscaping to tell the story of FDR’s presidency. It consists of five outdoor rooms, one as a prologue and four for the President’s four terms. Thanks to Dr. Woolner’s long-standing association with the Roosevelt Institute, he was present not only at the 1997 unveiling of the original memorial, but also intimately involved in the unveiling of the wheelchair statue of FDR that was added in January 2001 after a widespread protest campaign launched by the disability community insisting that the memorial should depict FDR in his wheelchair.

“It was during the 1997 celebrations where I first met President Dennis Murray,” Dr. Woolner noted. “It was this encounter that ultimately led to my arrival at Marist College in the fall of 1998. The unveiling of the FDR Memorial has thus had an enormous impact on me personally,” he said.

“As such it remains a place of special significance, not only for the nation and the world, but also for me and my family. As such, it was wonderful to return to Washington to be present at the twenty-fifth anniversary tribute to this remarkable leader who dedicated his life to the service of humanity.”

The full panel discussion can be found on the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee’s Facebook page.

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