Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Presidential Childrens' Books

I was at the library last week and happened to see this book, Franklin and Winston, and couldn't resist picking it up. I have to say it is nicely written and rather cute. It focuses on the visit of Churchill to the US in December of 1941 (using Christmas to highlight this). I was talking to another lady later who said she usually started with a children's' book to see if she wanted to learn more on a topic! Makes sense in a way - condensed, easy to read, information that can interest you quickly. I was thinking, though, there is also a lot of children's' literature out there that only reinforces stereotypes, not what we want. Any titles to share?

I did go on to research more on the topic of the book (checking them out - they were surprisingly accurate here!). I found this great site that is a teacher's resource on this visit:
A close friendship and the excellent working relations that developed between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were crucial in the establishment of a unified effort to deal with the Axis powers. This working relationship was highlighted by many joint appearances and agreements that not only addressed the immediate needs of the Allies but also the planning for a successful peace following victory.

In late December 1941, shortly after entry of the United States into World War II, Churchill met in Washington, D.C., with Roosevelt in what became known as the First Washington Conference, code name "Arcadia." The conference placed first priority on the Atlantic theater and the defeat of Germany and Italy. On December 24, 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill delivered Christmas greetings to the nation and the world from the South Portico of the White House during the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree. FDR closed his short message with the following passage, "And so I am asking my associate, [and] my old and good friend, to say a word to the people of America, old and young, tonight, -- Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain." These words clearly describe the relationship that these two leaders of the "Free World" had struck.

There is a cute scene in the book about Churchill being caught in the tub and the men running back and forth like this. So I checked this out - turns out TV had also used it and someone else did the work for me! It is true!
It's an amusing vignette, but did this nude encounter between Churchill and FDR really happen? The British ambassador recently hosted a screening of Into the Storm, followed by a panel discussion, where Newsweek editor and Churchill/FDR biographer Jon Meacham was asked this question. "Yes!" Meacham replied, according to the Washington Post, "I actually interviewed the man who took the dictation!" He added: "For me, in a dork way, it was very glamorous."

That man was Patrick Kinna, Churchill's wartime dictationist, who died at age 95 in March, and was the last surviving witness to the naked incident, which some of his obituaries dutifully noted. As Meacham described in his Franklin and Winston, during Churchill's Christmastime 1941 visit to Washington, following Pearl Harbor, the Prime Minister was fresh from his twice a day bath and pacing about "completely starkers" in his White House bedroom, according to Kinna. The loyal stenographer, who previously had served the Duke of Windsor, was taking dictation from his restless nude chieftain. Churchill replied "come in," after a knock at the door, and FDR rolled forward, surprised to see the Englishman disrobed. The President tried to leave, but the Prime Minister stopped him, declaring, "You see, Mr. President, I have nothing to hide from you."

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