FDR’s Visit

In this election year, Nebraska has been host to the President, the Vice-president, and 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 widebrimmed

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 never has 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.”

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