Reading Group Discussion Points
- Goodwin characterizes FDR as a brilliant, energetic, cheerful
man who rarely folded under pressure or displayed his innermost
feelings. How might the elements of FDR''s character and of his
time have blended to create a man so successful in marshaling
America''s forces to defeat the Axis powers? Compare FDR to other
wartime presidents such as Lincoln and Nixon. Why is FDR''s place
in history so secure?
- With deft ability, Goodwin brings Eleanor Roosevelt to life.
Who was she and what were her concerns? How did she alter
America''s conception of the role of First Lady? What innovative
and lasting contributions did she make to the civil rights movement
and to women? Why was she called, during her last years, "the
greatest woman in the world"? Compare Eleanor to other prominent
First Ladies, such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.
- Franklin and Eleanor had a very unconventional marriage, even
by today''s standards. What bound them? What kept them from living
more completely as man and wife? What helped to make them such an
extraordinary team? How did the combination of their characters
serve to create such a remarkable and successful partnership?
- Both Franklin and Eleanor found other people to fill the needs
they could not seem to satisfy in one another. Eleanor at various
times turned to her daughter, Anna, to Lorena Hickok, and to Joe
Lash for her personal needs. What did these three people contribute
to Eleanor''s life that Franklin either could not or would not? At
various times, Franklin relied on Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, Missy
LeHand, and Princess Martha of Norway for companionship. What did
these women offer him that Eleanor did not? What are the various
portraits that emerge of these important characters?
- Who are the other people, either personal or political, that
populated the Roosevelt years, such as Harry Hopkins and Frances
Perkins? What were their roles in FDR''s life and his presidency?
- What characterized the celebrated and remarkable friendship
that grew between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill? How did
this friendship affect the war''s outcome? What was their
relationship to Stalin, and how did the three of them function as a
united group that served to change the world?
- When Eleanor came back from visiting the front, she fell into a
deep depression. Goodwin writes, "Nothing in her previous
experience had prepared her for the misery she encountered in the
hospitals: the mangled bodies, the stomachs ripped by shells, the
amputated limbs, the crushed spirits. Only a few photographs of
dead American soldiers had appeared in magazines and newspapers
since the war began. The Office of War Information, established by
Roosevelt, had so sanitized the war experience that few people on
the home front understood what the war was really about." What
purpose did it serve to keep Americans from truly witnessing the
horrors of war? Do you think if Americans had seen, as Eleanor did,
the firsthand horrors of war, they would have continued to support
the war effort?
- In an effort to help European Jews, Roosevelt requested a new
war-powers bill that would have given him power to suspend laws
that were hampering "the free movement of persons, property, and
information." Had it passed, it might have helped open the gates of
immigration to Jewish refugees. "Once this was made clear, the bill
had no chance," Goodwin writes. "The powerful conservative
coalition strengthened immeasurably by the by-elections crushed
it." Newsweek observed, "The ugly truth is that anti-Semitism was a
definite factor in the bitter opposition to the president''s
request." Do you think FDR could have done more for the Jews? How
as a nation do we reconcile such a horrible fact?
- At the end of No Ordinary Time, Goodwin recaps
Franklin''s presidential career, underscoring his successes as well
as his failures. For example, Roosevelt''s success in mobilizing
the nation was extraordinary However, his forcible relocation of
Japanese-Americans during the war was certainly a failure of
vision. What are FDR''s other successes and failures?
- After the war, America emerged as a different, modern nation.
Goodwin writes "No segment of American society had been left
untouched." Discuss the many strides that were made, as well as the
fundamental changes that occurred. For example, as a result of the
war, numerous advancements were made on behalf of
African-Americans. Additionally, many women continued to work
outside the home after the war was over, forever changing the
- It was truly amazing how America, a nation completely
unprepared for war, rose up to become an unprecedented leader in
war production. "The figures are all so astronomical that they
cease to mean very much," historian Bruce Catton wrote. "The total
is simply beyond the compass of one''s understanding. Here was
displayed a strength greater even than cocky Americans in the old
days of unlimited selfconfidence had supposed; strength to which
nothing-literally nothing, in the physical sense-was any longer
impossible." What does this reveal about America and the spirit of
the American people?
- Would a presidency like FDR''s be possible today? How would the
contemporary American public view a relationship such as FDR had
with Missy LeHand? How might we as a nation react to a man
handicapped as FDR was?
- What is the legacy left to us by Eleanor and Franklin
Roosevelt? Count the ways in which we are indebted to them. How
might they feel about contemporary America and its role in the
world today? How does it differ from their America? How is it the
The Greatest of Friends: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston
Churchill, Keith Alldritt
It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain
Future, Saul Bellow
Washington Goes to War, David Brinkley
FDR''s Fireside Chats, Russell D. Buhite And David
Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, James Macgregor
The Roosevelts: An American Saga, Peter Collier
The Inheritance, Samuel Freedman
Dunkirk: The Complete Story of the First Step in the Defeat
of Hitler, Norman Gelb
This Is My Story, Eleanor Roosevelt
A Rendezvous with Destiny: The Roosevelts of the White
House , Elliott Roosevelt
The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. I, Arthur M. Schlesinger.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi
Germany , William L. Shirer