Roosevelt Rebuttal

Dec 15, 2014

Ken Burn's "The Roosevelts" was criticized last month by D. Streeter who was upset that it preempted regular programming and because of its emphasis on wealth and privilege.

Now comes public television viewer Kirke Wolfe of Oregon who disagrees with that assessment:

I'd like to respond briefly to D. Streeter's complaints about the content of "The Roosevelts." Maybe I should begin by saying I'm far from belonging to "The 1%" and am seriously concerned about its members' excessive power and their use of that power to win more wealth and power at the expense of those less well off.

I think Streeter misses the point in his/her objection to the film's presentation of the privileged position of the Roosevelts and its relation to the leadership they were able to exercise. The work is a rich presentation of the complex psychological and broader historical realities involved in the formation, the leadership and the impacts, both near at hand and far reaching, of three remarkably gifted, principled and flawed members of one family who, individually and together, made an enormous mark on the history of our country.

The advantages they gained from and the ways in which they were limited by, used or rose above their elite position are all an essential part of that story.

I certainly share Streeter's worry about the negative effect that the dependence of public broadcasting on wealthy donors may have on both programming and the very viability of the service - and appreciate the attention you've been giving to this issue - but can make out no such influence here.

I felt on viewing "The Roosevelts" that this was a particularly fine example of just the sort of work that public broadcasting should be doing, one that tells an important story both accurately and engagingly, one with the power to expand the understanding and sympathies of, maybe even to inspire, any reasonably attentive and open-minded viewer.