As Americans ponder the quality of the nation’s civic discourse, the nature of its presidency and the future of its political experiment, Long Island University Post and Tweed Roosevelt, a great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, are joining forces to upgrade the university’s curriculum in international relations, diplomacy, leadership and public policy.
On Feb. 18, Post officials announced the creation of the Roosevelt School, which will open this fall. The school, named for Theodore and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, will prepare undergraduate and graduate students for careers in international relations, diplomacy, leadership, service and policy making at multinational corporations, foundations, think tanks, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies around the world.
“It will be focused on research in international policy, diplomacy and ethical leadership,” Tweed said. “Eleanor was interested in human rights and social justice; we’ll have an interest in that. FDR had his New Deal. TR was known for many different interests and concerns, but among them was all he did for the environment.”
Susan Sarna, curator of Oyster Bay’s Sagamore Hill, said that Theodore Roosevelt was a proponent of education. “He read a book a day, and would approve of the school,” she said. “There is so much to talk about when it comes to TR. Just one example is all the scientific materials he found in his travels, including previously unknown species, specimens, a lot of which are at the Smithsonian. People don’t even think of him that way.”
The new school will build on Long Island University’s extensive heritage of working with the presidential family dating back to the early 20th century.
From 1901 to 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt worked with breakfast cereal entrepreneur C.W. Post (the namesake of LIU’s Post campus) on the establishment of labor relations policies in the United States. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., a war hero and the assistant secretary of the Navy, was among a group of citizens to write Long Island University’s charter in 1926. In the 1940s, Joseph E. Davies, a resident of the campus, served as FDR’s ambassador to Russia. Marjorie Merriweather Post served with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on several World War II relief committees to fund a field hospital in France and Red Cross services. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., the third son of FDR, was elected to LIU’s board of trustees in 1946.
LIU is “proud to build on the exceptional heritage of the Roosevelts,” LIU President Kimberly R Cline said. “The Roosevelt School will prepare students to achieve success in a global society by guiding them to become well-informed, critically minded and engaged citizens.”
Among the entities that will be housed at the school will be Post’s Global Service Institute; the Steven S. Hornstein Center for Policy, Polling and Analysis; and two organizations headed by Tweed Roosevelt — the recently formed Theodore Roosevelt Institute and the Society of Presidential Descendants.
The Theodore Roosevelt Institute, established in 2018, serves as a home for research, public seminars, educational programs and conferences about Roosevelt, his times and his contemporaries.
The Society of Presidential Descendants — a group of Americans with direct lineage to one or more of the 46 presidents — has been in existence for a year or so. It supports educational programs that focus on the history of the presidency and the importance of civic engagement in American democracy. The society is planning a major rollout in June 2022.
Now, both these initiatives will have a home at LIU Post, at the new Roosevelt School.
There are those who argue that this initiative comes none too soon, given the tenor of the national political dialogue.
“In this time of polarization, I hope that this society can encourage the study of our country’s history and how its presidents have influenced it,” said Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and a vice president of the society. “We look forward to having an impact on the dialogue of what unites us as a country.”
Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman, added, “I hope that we can, in some small way, help the nation toward, if not unity, at least collegial and constructive disagreement. In the ranks of presidential de-scendants, historic friendship en-dures, while political rancor fades away.”
The ultimate direction of the Roosevelt School will necessarily be more global than these specific goals, Tweed said. He agreed, however, that there is a need to bolster civic education in the U.S.
“We think we need to educate our youth in citizenship,” he said. “Certainly, if they’re going into government service, nationally or internationally, but that goes for people who are headed for careers in international business or NGOs. We feel civics needs to be brought back for all students. If we’re going to make this republic a success, we have to have an educated electorate.”
Is that something he thinks his great- grandfather would agree with?
“I wouldn’t like to say what he’d say about the issues of the day, and of course, he comes from a different era,” Tweed said. “Some of his ideas look quite far-sighted, others not. But I think he would support the idea that the presidency needs to be studied.”