culture, education, inspiration, love, writing

Four Life Principles: Thanks, Eleanor Roosevelt


At the request of my school, I gave a speech today. My audience included parents, students, and community members at an assembly, and Eleanor Roosevelt stood by my side and helped me through it. Are you are feeling lowly today? Maybe a reminder is all you need. Let her wisdom lift you. Here was what I said:

Thank you, school board members, administrators, students, and the faculty for whom I represent for allowing me to address you today. I’d like to begin with a quote given by First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who advocated for human rights and became an essential advisor for her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

She said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Whenever I face an anxious situation, like speaking on this stage in front of you, I like to pretend Eleanor is standing next to me. Her maxims are great ideas, life principles to follow, and there are four I’d like to share.


1. Goal Oriented 

“I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”

Come up with a strategy. Then try it. Students, today you are commended for improving your grade point average over the course of a semester or a year. You are here today because you tried. Creating a goal is the first step. To execute the strategy requires focus. Remember, you are not competing against the person next to you. You are in a marathon race with yourself and your success first depends on a course of action.


2. Self-Reflection

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly make them all yourself.”

How did your strategy work? What can I do differently to achieve a better result? Life is about tweaking, modifying, and scheduling your time. If you manage your time well, efficiency will catapult your goals and results easier to achieve. Ever notice how true experts, athletes, and artists make it look so easy? It’s because they are efficient, focused, and tweaked their “performance” over time.

You change. Don’t be passive. Don’t wait for someone to suggest what you should do. This is your education, your life. Decide what worked and what didn’t; create a new strategy and try again. It is all about you.


3. Be Positive

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

This is the hardest principle to live by and it truly makes all the difference, for it is a choice, happiness, and it starts with positive thinking.

Insecurity. Fear. Labels others give you. Mountains to climb, Hardships. Loneliness. These are your companions for the rest of your life. What helps you achieve your goals, your dreams, is your attitude. Avoid succumbing to the negative by discovering strategies for dealing with these sap-sucking companions. People surround you who want to help you bypass your obstacles. Seek out the advice from those who have succeeded. You are never alone. A positive attitude takes practice, it is akin to hope, and worth the effort.


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

How do you acquire strong self-esteem? How do you become confident? Self-reliant? Surround yourself with people who are positive. Allow them to fill the hours of your day and you will gain courage to face all those who only see the negative–the whiners, the complainers–those who want you to be miserable with them. Can’t find anyone positive? Then be your own best friend. Let the positive people from the past be your inspiration and your friends. Like Eleanor Roosevelt. They will give you courage. Let them be your teachers.

4. Reinvent Yourself

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

 There’s an old film I’ve made a personal connection with and that’s Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. Here was a story about a negative, obnoxious man who, stuck in a time glitch, relived his day over and over. He disgusts the girl of his dreams and can’t figure out why she doesn’t like him. Every day he learned something new. He discarded selfishness and cultivated a positive attitude. He became philanthropic. He became a leader in the community and devoted his time to learn something new, motivated to win the love of his dream girl. What if every day was the same day and you chose to reinvent yourself? What an opportunity! What would you do? What if you were the leader and positive role model for someone else? What do you think would happen to you? Give it a try.


Practice. Try. Read all about it. Imitate. and remember a Cindy Bruchman adage: “Follow the Good, and lead yourself.” Thank you. No, thank you, Eleanor. It’s easy to be wise when you adopt the wisdom of others.

actors, history, movies, travel

FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt: Appearance and Reality in Films and History

hyde park

Many have played Franklin Delano Roosevelt on stage and film. Three personal favorites include Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012),


Jon Voight in Pearl Harbor(2001)


and Kenneth Branagh in the HBO film, Warm Springs (2005).

All I know is, every time I see some one portraying FDR, I really crave a cigarette.


90 miles north of NYC on Rt. 9, please visit FDR’s estate of Hyde Park on the Hudson River as well as their prestigious neighbors, the Vanderbilts.  Two miles down the road from Hyde Park is Eleanor’s cottage sitting on 180 acres, Val-Kill. The architecture, grounds, and beauty of the Hudson River from up on the hill is worth the trip out of the city.

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The family estate, Mrs. Delano’s house, the side of the Vanderbilt Mansion

index     Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

Val-Kill , married for forty years

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt’s father Elliot Roosevelt was the brother of US President Theodore Roosevelt. That makes them fifth cousins, not considered taboo.

Hyde Park on Hudson had its flaws. Historically speaking, it was more fiction than fact. If you want to know how, take a look at this:

It’s a pretty film. I can still appreciate the acting while swallowing the pound of salt. The romanization of a leader’s accomplishments and their imprint in history is common in films and textbooks and biographies. Like most biopics, the audience sees the human behind the icon. This is always interesting. The hero is human? Hard to fathom, but it’s nice to know those who seem larger than life are just as flawed as the rest of us. Take FDR, for example. Hated by Republicans, he was a fatherly savior to many Americans during the Great Depression. FDR is generally considered one of the better leaders we’ve had. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders and did so while he hid his legs made useless by polio.


The biopic Hyde Park on Hudson shed light to his philandering ways. Sigh. Secret liaisons. So what else is new? I suppose I had high hopes for the film because I liked all the actors and were rooting for them. Laura Linney played FDR’s lover, sixth cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley. Linney narrated Daisy’s side of the story. She was the “wife” and true love of Franklin based upon boxes of letters and her journal found under Daisy’s bed when she passed at the age of 100. All the while, FDR was married to Eleanor Roosevelt for forty years. In fact, Daisy and Eleanor learned to accept their roles much like the arrangement in the film, The Duchess.


It might explain why Eleanor moved out and lived two miles down the road with her personal secretary and life long friend, Malvina “Tommy” Thompson.  I assume it is only a matter of time before a biopic about their relationship is made. If Franklin’s companions gave him comfort and love, I’m glad Eleanor had hers. Is this the message of biopics? To show the burden of rank and privilege, or is this a universal story made interesting because they are famous?

I am a big fan of Naomi Watts, but I fear the upcoming biopic, Diana, released around the anniversary of her death will be, well, predictable.


Didn’t I read all about it in People?

Eleanor Roosevelt

She is far more interesting than Franklin. She is my personal role model and a source of inspiration.  Orphaned, homely, privileged, isolated, educated, loyal, generous, humanitarian, and a champion for all–she managed her hardships and advocated for human rights. Thankfully, Hyde Park on Hudson showed the strength and compassion of Eleanor’s character.  You’ve probably heard her many maxims:

images             Quote Eleanor Roosevelt

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Whenever I’m scared, I think about her wisdom, and she gives me courage.