Now that both the Republican and the Democratic Conventions are over, we can all relax and go back to wondering what we should watch this evening. But we are not going back to the same political world that existed a month ago. The Democratic party’s nomination of
Hillary Clinton for President was an historic moment that will change the dynamics of conventions for years to come. But of course the conduct of conventions has changed dramatically over the years.
Two of the most watched speeches of the conventions were those given by Michele Obama, our popular First Lady, and by Melania Trump, who aspires to be a first lady. Our Founding Fathers would be aghast if they knew that candidates wives were actually appearing in public and speaking on behalf of their parties and their husbands.
Like so many other revolutions in American politics, Eleanor Roosevelt was a pioneer in opening the way for wives to speak at nominating conventions. She surprised everyone by appearing on the podium at the 1940 Democratic Convention in Chicago to urge delegates to nominate her husband, Franklin. As the New York Times reported:
“Eight years after her husband shattered the tradition of the non-appearance of Presidential candidates before the conventions which nominated them, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the same hall and on the same platform, established another tonight, the first wife of a President or nominee ever to address a major political party conclave.”
The Times went on to report that the First Lady spoke with unusual gravity, both at the press conference when she arrived in Chicago on a chartered plane, and in the convention hall. Franklin Roosevelt had announced earlier that he did not want to run again, and Eleanor Roosevelt said she was not surprised at this because “I cannot imagine in the present state of the world, why anyone would want to carry such a burden…” Her reaction when told that her own name had been placed in nomination for the Vice Presidency was to laugh and say. “I could imagine nothing more foolish or less wanted.” Her speech, when it came, was forceful and the delegates went on to nominate Franklin Roosevelt by acclamation for an historic third term as President.
Eleanor Roosevelt, like both Michele Obama and Melania Trump this year, could not escape press comments on her clothes. “Her traveling suit was a tailored ensemble of navy cloth coat with long lapels of Eleanor blue, with a soft crepe dress beneath in the same shade. Her hat was a small one of navy straw in a modified beret type…” At least the newspaper did not report on her hair style or the height of the heels of her shoes.
We’ve come a long way since 1940 in the matter of spouses at conventions. This year Bill Clinton spoke as the spouse of a candidate—a first for a man at a convention. I do not
recall any report on his clothes or any comments about who designed his suit. Perhaps the next milestone we should aim for is equal treatment for spouses of all genders at conventions to come. Now that the glass ceiling has been shattered, surely we can break the tradition of judging women by their clothes and men by their words. Let’s see what the 2020 conventions will bring.
Wouldn’t it be great if one day when you were wandering through a public garden you came across a secluded piano where you could sit down and make beautiful music? Well, this week I had a chance to visit several pianos set in different locations around San Francisco’s Botanical Gardens. I saw a quite a few people—from children to professional pianists- making music there.
Even though this is the first time I’ve seen any of the Pianos in Public Places, it is not a new ideas. According to a Wikipedia article, the idea of Pianos in Public Places originated by accident in Sheffield, England. The first piano was originally left on the sidewalk temporarily because the owner could not get it up the steps into his new house. As an experiment the owner and a friend then attached a sign inviting passersby to play the piano for free. So many people took advantage of the offer, that the piano became a community attraction.
In the last ten years, several cities around the world have placed pianos in public places and invited people to play or to listen. There are public pianos in Paris, London, New York, Toronto, and many other cities.
The pianos in the Botanical Gardens took various forms–some of them very strange and new, but all of them fun.
During a week when so much of the news is bad—I suggest that you try the music cure. If you live anywhere near a city with public pianos, visit them and join the fun! We all need beauty in our lives and music and flowers are among the best ways to find beauty.
As the Fourth of July approaches, United States embassies around the world are hosting American expats, tourists, and local citizens at parties celebrating American independence. These parties are often the highlight of the embassy season and, depending on how lavish they are and how large the country, can be a major financial headache. American corporations with local outlets often contribute to the costs. These receptions usually feature large cakes baked in the shape of an American flag and flags decorate the walls of reception rooms and flutter from flagstaffs on the building.
Americans abroad were not always so assured in using the symbols of the country. Back in 1847, when Italians were struggling to forge a more democratic government, a group of Americans living in Rome wanted to honor the opening of a new more representative Council by flying an American flag. They soon discovered there was not an American flag to be found anywhere in the city. As Margaret Fuller, wrote, the expats were undaunted and decided to make their own flag. She reported: “they hurried to buy their silk—red, white and blue, and inquired of recent arrivals how many States there are this Winter in the Union, in order to make the proper number of stars” Unfortunately, just as the Americans had managed to produce a suitable flag, an ordinance was passed forbidding the display of any flag except the Roman ensign.
Today it is hard to imagine an American flag as a changeable symbol with a fluctuating number of stars. It has been more than half a century since a new state was admitted to the union. But during the early years of the Republic, America was just establishing its traditions and beginning to take its place in the world. Margaret Fuller, a journalist, writer, and feminist, was one of the people who helped to make the United States aware of its importance as a symbol of freedom and democracy. Two years after the incident of the flag-making, Margaret was in Rome and watched the invasion of the French army on July 4, 1849. On the very anniversary of the day America gained its freedom, the Romans lost theirs. It would be many years before Italy would become a free and united country.
Margaret Fuller was a brilliant and influential woman. She changed the way Americans view the world. As a journalist and activist, she demanded both votes and jobs for women.
During this month when we celebrate America’s independence and the men and women who built the country, you can get a free ebook copy of my biography of this remarkable woman, Margaret Fuller: an Uncommon Woman. Just go to www.smashwords.com , search for the title and use the code SFREE to get your copy.