The Gentleman from Hyde Park
Richard Davidson

He's a portrait of history.
He's written down in golden ledgers.

As a boy I loved his voice,
Talking quietly, firmly on the small radio;
Over the twisting wires the germ of hope,
The presentment of truth,
The dire plea for unity:

"My friends, I have a problem.  And I am
taking my problem to you."

My friends -------------
And Lord, he had friends:

"FDR's top of my Christmas tree.  He got me a job,"

     A worker from Duluth.

"He's put up this new hospital in town.
Poor folks can even afford it,"

     A doctor from Rochester.

"He's granting me money in my old age,"

     A car salesman, retired.

My friends --- My friends --- My friends ---
The land was burning; soil flat and barren
The hills of economy had crumbled
And a day's work wasn't worth a wink.
And he came, that gentleman from Hyde Park,
With the long cigarette holder and the sure smile,
And voice clipped with Harvard A's,
And his soul on fire with belief and poetry,
And he came with a deal, a New Deal he called it;
A deal to answer.

An answer to the rows of apple-sellers on corners,
The cracked hands of the empty,
The poor without bread or sleep,
The hundreds shivering in the march rains of broken dreams,
The shanty towns where no sun shone,
And no stars danced,
The kids running on the sidewalks of desolation,
Parents too defeated to even care.
The answer ---
From the gentleman from Hyde Park.

I was just a kid but I remember the names -----
NRA ----- National recovery was everybody's business.
TVA ----- Power booming from Tennessee's rolling waters.
WPA ----- Again workers could feel like men with a job in their hands.
Federal housing.  Federal theatres.  Federal chance.
The Deal.
Names that danced with history.
Names that opened a door, built a home, gave a lift.

My friends ----- My friends ----- My friends -----
And soon across the land the clocks of peace gave way to shouts of war.
Bullets splattered on the bright, bulging glass -----
New Names.  Smell of Pacific seas.
Iwo Gima.
And he guided us, like a determined father,
To scrape the plate clean; dictators to dust,
The world free of pain and blackened strife -----
To sit together in the theatre of nations as one.
He didn't live to sit in that chair -----
The soul that brought us through the long tunnel
Toward the sharp light now called quiet,
The end to the wild, turning years,
That gentleman from Hyde Park.

Faults.  Oh yes, faults rang on him like birds at nest.
Mistakes, scandals, the smell of hypocrisy at times -----
No one builds a nation -----
A nation is built by people!
And he knew that.
My friends ----- My friends ----- My friends -----
And his wife ----- who learned the dust of the mine
And the smell of the factory,
She brought him back the taste of humanity,
And he stamped it with the seal of experience.

Today in the silence of so few stars,
We touch over the years like blankets.
His words are as alive as ever,
His deeds live in the benefits we reap....

Let us gather our dreams in his name,
Our strength in his honor,
Our pledges to his spirit:
To begin to bind the problems of our very aching country
(The eighties are not much removed from the thirties),
To hear again those notes of brotherhood and peace,
They can be sounded.
As we, this cold January day in near forty years beyond his death
Bring new life to tree and spring,
The nation he served,
The country he loved,
The times he knew

That American from Hyde Park.

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