FDR visits Ohio University Southern

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2004

Hobbling slowly across the room on crutches he needed to battle the polio that had wrecked his body, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat down in his wheelchair for one final fireside chat.

Though the 32nd President of the United States died nearly 60 years ago, the esteemed leader, as portrayed by lcoal history buff Brian Kelley, talked about his presidency with dozens of people gathered for a little lunchtime entertainment courtesy of Ohio University Southern's Brown Bag Concert series.

Kelley, a 45-year-old graduate student from Pedro, jumped at the opportunity to portray the president that he admires so much.

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"I have always been inspired by FDR. I feel that he was the people's president - and I mean all the people," Kelley said. "He lead us through such a devastating war and time of depression. He didn't have to do what he did. It makes you proud to be an American."

To build on the atmosphere, four of Kelley's co-workers in the university library portrayed the Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby, popular entertainers of the era, as they sang and served war cake and vegetable soup.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1933 and reelected three times, prompting Congress to implement term limits. FDR will always be remembered as the president that lead the nation through some of its darkest hours - the Great Depression and World War II.

Kelley outlined the president's political background, including a few ties to Lawrence County. Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S.

Congress, was the sole vote opposing war. She was the granddaughter of an abolitionist, the Rev. John Rankin, who spent some time in Ironton and died in the house that is now the Lawrence County Historical Museum.

Lawrence Countians can also thank Roosevelt for Lake Vesuvius. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of his "Alphabet Soup" programs under the New Deal.

Most Americans remember Roosevelt for his stirring speech after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," Kelley quoted. ". . . Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."

Though some criticized FDR's decision to go to war, the president defended the historic choice.

"You have to think of it this way. Britain is our neighbor and their house is on fire," Kelley said speaking in character. "We have a garden hose and we are going to lend it to them."

The program will be aired on OUS television station channel 25 later this month.