By Ruben D. Colon, WHINSEC /
Students in WHINSEC’s Command and General Staff Officers Course class of ’17 conducted a staff ride to Warm Springs, Georgia, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home known as the Little White House.
The trip helped students understand key aspects of President Roosevelt’s leadership as Commander-in-Chief and his role in establishing social welfare, political stability in the U.S. and the international community during his presidency from 1933 to 1945.
During his presidency, FDR was confronted with domestic and international challenges that defined him as a world leader in preserving the principles of democratic nations, the nation’s most severe economic depression, then a world war.
The site offers actor James Fowler performing the role of FDR, addressing the class as if he were addressing the nation at the time of the United States’ entry into World War II with the famous reassuring words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The Fowler performance directly involved students and brought to life the readings and the pictures on display at the museum. One student commented that Mr. Fowler’s performance “was simply outstanding” and the performance helped him appreciate that period in history.
The class followed the Fowler performance with a study of the three different areas of the museum that showcased many exhibits, including FDR’s 1938 Ford convertible with hand controls that he designed. His “Fireside Chats” he delivered played over a 1930s radio in the background as students walked through the museum. They toured FDR’s home, which has been carefully preserved.
To ensure every student got the most out of the experience, the class was split into three groups, two English-speaking and one Spanish-speaking with an interpreter.
The study provided the students with a realistic experience that examined the impact FDR’s physical condition had on his leadership after he contracted polio. His strong will to overcome the impairment from polio changed Roosevelt as he related a nation’s struggles for existence with his own.
Students visited the natural thermal pools FDR bathed in for the treatment of polio, which brought him no cure, but did provide relief and some improvement.
The visit included a stroll through the grounds which took them through the “Walk of Flags and Stones” of the 48 U.S. states during FDR’s period in office.
The integration phase, the final phase of the staff ride, was conducted by students at Dowdell’s Knob. This was a place where FDR frequented for personal time, thinking through the big issues and decisions of the day.
During the visit, students delivered oral presentations on aspects of FDR’s presidency and how he successfully dealt with domestic issues and the international conflict of WW II.