Johnson’s frank, unfictionalized tribute to Roosevelt explains to young readers that their rich counterparts often face their own peculiar impediments to the attainment of greatness. With a family history of established wealth and community standing, the young Roosevelt could have presumed, as his loving parents did, that a comfortable mold for his future had already been formed. James Roosevelt, his father and a moderately successful New York City businessperson, inherited sufficient money to disinterest him in strenuously seeking more. While well respected, he maintained a dignified low profile as the country squire of his Hudson River estate, Hyde Park, ministering to his farm and to local church, social, and charitable affairs. Franklin’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, exercised a powerful influence over her son, certain in the belief that she alone understood his best interests.
Contented at Hyde Park, with ample opportunities for travel, sailing, and stamp collecting, Roosevelt was thus directed to succeed his father as a patrician squire, although with a nominal attachment to some reputable profession. His uninspired progress through Groton and Harvard University was expected to ensure proper contacts and requisite polish. An acceptable marriage was one more realization of parental expectations, as was his acquisition of a Columbia University law degree and his association with a prominent New York City law firm. As Johnson notes, little about young Roosevelt’s predesigned, somewhat cloistered life sensitized him for understanding the vast majority of his fellow Americans or fitted him for a commitment to politics....
(The entire section is 672 words.)