It was not all somber speeches at the ribbon cutting for Four Freedoms Park yesterday.
Naturally, this was an event honoring one the nation’s greatest presidents, so there was bound to be some politics in the mix, not just quaint platitudes about FDR and recastings of the Four Freedoms speech as each speaker tried to rhetorically show up the others. What The Observer was not counting on was what sounded like a full-on stump speech for President Obama at the end of Bill Clinton’s remarks from the dais in the park at the tip of Roosevelt Island. He did everything but call out the president by name:
Perhaps, ironically, it is altogether fitting that this day was delayed until a time when we knew we could never take the four freedoms for granted, until a time when we, too, would have to decide whether to build a country that benefits the many and not just the few, a time when we, too, would have to shoulder our share of the responsibility from freeing people from fear and want, and we would have to remind ourselves that the freedom of religion requires mutual respect and not intimidation from those who worship differently from us and inspires us to insist that they accord us the same rights.
This is a wonderful day for our country, a day to remember that the words Franklin Roosevelt spoke so long ago still mean something today, partly because we need bold, persistent experimentation, partly because we need innovation and also because we need never to forget that we will never be free of these fears until we are one community of shared prosperity, shared responsibility, and a shared sense of citizenship.
Granted the former president and Harlem hotshot was not the only one to use the opportunity to add a little politics to all the ceremonial speechifying. Mayor Bloomberg spent much of his speech talking not about the park but all the great things the new Cornell Tech campus he helped set up would bring to Roosevelt Island. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo took the opportunity to praise the passage last year of gay marriage (in which he played a crucial part).
“Today it is the legacy of this great state to strive to continue that crusade and to build on that progressive tradition” of FDR, Governor Cuomo said. “I believe this state’s success last year in passing a new law that achieved marriage equality for all New Yorkers, that ended discrimination, that established a new civil right, I believe that the marriage equality law followed in FDR’s vision, and I believe that marriage equality law has inspired other states to try to pass similar laws, causing New York to finally lead a progressive movement once again. The crusade continues in New York once again.”
Can you blame these guys though? Put a politician in front of a mic, and what do you expect to get?