Many national political candidates jet in and out of Nebraska without staying long. That was not the case when FDR came to visit in the fall of 1936.
In an election year, Nebraska and many states play hose to a multitude of other national political figures. The campaigners have been whisked by jet in and out of the state, staying here only part of a day. In the fall of 1936, a more leisurely campaign trip was made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was stumping for re-election. Then as now, Nebraskans responded enthusiastically to a presidential visit.
America’s smiling leader, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Lincoln at 1 p.m. Saturday and rode up O Street with the nation’s first lady, while thousands of southeast Nebraskans whose guest he was returned cheer upon cheer for the gay waves from his wide-brimmed gray hat. Throughout the short drive from the Burlington station to the capitol, the president was waving, nodding, and smiling constantly to the crowds which lined the sidewalks. The president walked from his automobile up the ramp to the platform on the arm of his personal bodyguard.
I am glad to be here with my old friends,’ he said opening his address. He paid tribute to the capitol, towering above the packed grounds, as a ‘great and worthy structure worthy of a great state.’ Pointing to the motto graven in stone above the entrance to the capitol which he faced– ‘Watchfulness in the citizen is the salvation of the state’–President Roosevelt declared citizens have developed a watchfulness and an understanding greater than ever before ‘and will be able to distinguish the truth from the false in this election.
There has never been and there never will be a federal tax on farms and homes as long as I have anything to do with it,’ he told the estimated 30,000 cheering Nebraskans. President Roosevelt’s ringing declaration was directed at Republican propaganda that if he is returned to the White House a federal property tax will be levied to pay the national debt.
Captured by the warmth of the president’s personality, and the sincerity of his words, the crowd roared its approval when he said: ‘I believe, I know the American people know how to separate the wheat from the chaff and that’s why I am confident of their verdict November 3.’ to end his 15-minute address.
Was the visit worth all the trouble? Apparently, FDR changed at least one vote. “An old gentleman wearing a (Republican candidate) Landon button saw the president come by, gallantly waving. As the president passed the old gentleman slowly reached up to his lapel, took off his Landon button, and dropped it onto the sidewalk.”