Efforts to create a national park in the Smokies began long before FDR took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. With plenty of work by a host of pre-park heroes in the rear view mirror (and even more heavy lifting to come), Pres. Calvin Coolidge signed a bill that provided the framework for the establishment of national parks in the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah in May 1926. The National Park Service has plenty of interesting information on that effort on its website at www.nps.gov/grsm/historyculture/stories.htm. Thanks to them for providing that to all of us.
In preparation for this High on LeConte update I read the full text of Pres. Roosevelt's speech. The tenor and language used in the dedication address at Newfound Gap is amazing. I realize it was September 2, 1940, a little more than 15 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but I was surprised at the martial tone of FDR's speech. This was a man clearly preparing the nation for war in what I thought was a most unlikely setting at the Smokies' dedication. I guess he knew what was coming.
I also realize that it was 72 years ago, but I couldn't believe FDR's frontiersman versus Indian comparison made to the upcoming struggle of the United States against the Axis powers. The reality on the ground (especially if you were Native American) wasn't quite so cut and dried. I can't imagine President Obama or Mitt Romney making such a comparison in 2012. Times change, often for the better. I'm not trying to make a political statement either (this is not the place for that). Both Roosevelt presidents, Franklin and earlier Theodore, were huge advocates for the national parks (and they both represented different parties). I'm a fan of both Roosevelts, but the full text of FDR's address surprised me. If you imagine hard enough you can hear him deliver it in that "Fireside Chat" voice.
At any rate, John Woolley and Gerhard Peters of The American Presidency Project have made the full text of FDR's Smokies' dedication address available online at www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16002. My thanks to them for that. You can read the address and draft your own opinion. I have included a few excerpts below if you don't have time to read the whole thing.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sept. 2, 1940.
"There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the thrush for the happiness of the American people."
"It is our pride that in our country men are free to differ with each other and with their Government and to follow their own thoughts and express them. We believe that the only whole man is a free man. We believe that, in the face of danger, the old spirit of the frontiersmen that is in our blood will give us the courage and unity that we must have. We need that spirit in this hour. We need a conviction, felt deep in us all, that there are no divisions among us. We are all members of the same body. We are all Americans.
The winds that blow through the wide sky in these mountains, the winds that sweep from Canada to Mexico, from the Pacific to the Atlantic—have always blown on free men. We are free today. If we join together now— men and women and children -to face the common menace as a united people, we shall be free tomorrow.
So, to the free people of America, I dedicate this Park."
That's pretty hard to follow with the LeConte weather report, but here goes. Saturday's high topped out at 70 with a low of 56. Our brief showers totaled 0.05 inches of rain, but at least we didn't get shut out.
We were lucky to have a fortuneteller come up to visit us on LeConte recently (sometimes I lie). In honor of the 72nd anniversary of Pres. Roosevelt's dedication of the Smokies, I asked the fortuneteller to channel what Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt would say if they drove through Sevier County today on their way to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In tomorrow's update (unless something changes), the readers of High on LeConte will get the exclusive on that conversation between the Roosevelts in 2012. After being mobilized by FDR to meet the menace today, we'll keep it a little lighter on Labor Day.