Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at the Cornerstone Laying of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

November 19, 1939

Mr. Walker, my neighbors and friends:

Half a century ago a small boy took especial delight in climbing an old tree, now unhappily gone, to pick and eat ripe sickle pears. That was about one hundred feet to the west of where I am standing now. And just to the north he used to lie flat between the strawberry rows and eat sun-warmed strawberries-the best in the world. In the spring of the year, in hip rubber boots, he sailed his first toy boats in the surface water formed by the melting snow. In the summer with his dogs he dug into woodchuck holes in this same field, and some of you are standing on top of those holes at this minute. (Laughter) Indeed, the descendants of those same woodchucks still inhabit this field and I hope that, under the auspices of the National Archivist, they will continue to do so for all time.

It has, therefore, been my personal hope that this Library, and the use of it by scholars and visitors, will come to be an integral part of a country scene which the hand of man has not changed very greatly since the days of the Indians who dwelt here three hundred years ago.

We know from simple deduction that these fields were cultivated by the first inhabitants of America—for the oak trees in these fields were striplings three centuries ago, and grew up in open fields as is proved to us by their wide spreading lower branches. Therefore, they grew in open spaces, and the only open spaces in Dutchess County were the cornfields of the Indians.

This is a peaceful countryside and it seems appropriate in this time of strife that we should dedicate this Library to the spirit of peace—peace for the United States and soon, we hope, peace for the world itself.

At the same time we can express the thought that those in the days to come who seek to learn from contemporaneous documents the history of our time will gain a less superficial and more intimate and accurate view of the aspirations and purposes of all kinds of Americans who have been living in these times.

Of the papers which will come to rest here I personally attach less importance to the documents of those who have occupied high public or private office, than I do to the spontaneous letters which have come to me and my family and my associates from men, from women, and from children in every part of the United States, telling me of their conditions and problems, and giving me their opinions.

To you who have come here today to take part in the laying of the cornerstone, to you who have contributed so greatly to the building of the Library, and to you who have also helped but who could not be present, I give my appreciation and thanks. I add, too, my very sincere thanks to all the workmen and the foremen who have made possible this splendid beginning in this building.

This wholly adequate building will be turned over, as you know, to the Government of the United States next summer without any cost whatsoever to the taxpayers of the country. During the following year the manuscripts, the letters, the books, the pictures and the models will be placed in their appropriate settings, and the collections will be ready for public inspection and use, we hope, by the spring of 1941.

And may I add, in order that my good friends of the press will have something to write about tomorrow, that I hope they will give due interpretation to the expression of my hope that, when we open the building to the public, it will be a fine day. (Laughter)

All of you who have been so generous in making this Library possible—all of my friends and associates who have given so greatly of their time and their interest in the planning of the work—will join me, I know, in feeling well rewarded if for generations to come the people of the United States approve our planning and believe that the life of our Nation has been thereby enriched.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at the Cornerstone Laying of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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