David Levering Lewis, Wendell Willkie, America discussed on Pat Thurston
G L eight ten. Good evening. I'm Pat Thurston. John Rothman is here in studio with me today, and I'm gonna let Jon talk, but I I'm not gonna get much time to talk I know this hour. So I'm going to take advantage where I can the first of all I want to say that. Yeah. There's way too much for us to talk about this weekend. There's so much going on. And we're gonna talk about some of the most important issues. We have this terrific and very important guest. Who is joining us. His name is David levering Lewis. Dr Lewis is an American historian. He's a two time Pulitzer prize winner for his biographies of w e b DeVos his latest book, which is receiving tremendous acclaim is the improbable Wendell willkie, the businessman who saved the Republican party and his country and conceived a new world order, and I mean, I think about that. I think about the title and old timey Republican businessman who saved the Republican party in his country do tell well, John Roth will get. Get into it with Dr Lewis in just a minute and effort of all I want to welcome you David levering Lewis to the program. It's so good of you to join us this evening. Thank you for being here. It's a pleasure to be with you ES. Indeed. I I wanna start out like I said 'cause John won't let me otherwise. And I wanna talk with you about something quite specific that I noticed in your book, Dr Lewis, you are black. You probably know that you you wrote these two Pulitzer prize winning books on WABC, boys. You've written biography of Martin Luther King, you know, full. Well, the horrific racism, the lynchings that were still commonplace and legal in the south the new deal a gem for white Americans with little for blacks all of this the America during the time of Wilkie. Now, I understand that willkie was someone who was a strong advocate for civil rights. What was his attitude? What did he do to further the cause of equality to enjoy? Sure that black Americans could participate in America's democratic system. Did he allow black Americans to walk through the front door to sit in any vacant seat on a bus to eat it? Whatever restaurant they could afford to expect Justice from law enforcement in the courts in short. What did he do to further the cause of civil rights in America? I live near thing to the African Americans could not do or only did with difficulty was a vision that willkie had from earliest days that this should be the natural, right? The natural the privilege of an American citizen. And so from that point of view, his advocacy was colorblind that is to say citizenship broad brings with it. The rights a under the constitution. I suppose the fact that one of his earliest encounters in the public domain was to oppose the Q Klux Klan, which though he was then an important attorney for the Firestone corporation in Akron, Ohio that part of the United States was infested. One must say by. A burgeoning to Klux Klan Wilkie oppose the clan and. Made it possible for the school board of Athens too has on its board citizens who were open minded on bigots and who wanted. Akron educated as they should be all of the children. Indeed. I think that also the reaches that they will keys in heartland America in a little small town of else else L would were descended from the eighteen forty eight hours. Those Germans who resisted the the the power growing power of Bismarckian authoritarianism in Prussian, Germany and found in fact, that it was so unacceptable that they migrated to the United States to contribute to the kind of openness that they believed America represented. And so the will case where the quintessential lay Representative of that strain of immigrants from Germany eighteen forty eight hours who settled in ultimately finally in. In in Indiana. And they're they never forgot that power must rest with the people. They were always suspicious of all of the appeals to kind of old for a paid through patriotism, and and indeed to the imperialism that swept across America as part of that part of our acquisition of of the Philippines, and our acquisition of Puerto Rico, and our embrace of the Kipling esque view that there was a white man's burden at the spread the flags of Britain and the United States and other European hours across the globe. And we'll kiss bother Herman willkie said, oh, no. We don't sing. Those songs. We oppose those things. And we are Democrats with a small the quite proudly, and they embraced the curious and very promising though at the end of the day, not successful campaign, William Jennings. Bryan that interesting populous who believed in the silver dollar is a solution to poverty and the incentivize -ment of all Americans to control the power of the cartels and business as the solution to the good society. David I want to jump in first of all that greets you David levering Lewis who were interviewing his book, the improbable Wendell willkie, you may know, reviewed brilliantly in the New York Times, the New Yorker magazine ran a feature in the current edition. And the Wall Street Journal, it's being reviewed an acclaimed everywhere. Of course, David the twice the winner of the Pulitzer prize. Can you tell us David? Walter white is a name not known to many. But he was the head of the end of Lacey pe- a leading advocate for equality. Can you explain the friendship between Wilkie and white and their impact on Hollywood in the nineteen forties. Oh, well, and actually the way I found my way to the life and times when the location is it years ago when I was writing another book cold when Harlan was in vogue, which was about during Jian America in the twenties and thirties, I came across in a drawer in the library of congress citation of a letter that Wendell willkie had written to Walter white. The head of the national association for the bench with people, and it was written after Wendell willkie had been defeated in the Wisconsin primary in nineteen forty four. When. He hoped once again to run for the presidency, and he was unsuccessful and his party the Republican party at virtually disowned. And that letter from Wendell to Walter said, this was a wonderful evening that you recorded me, the gentleman who were there was so perceptive, and so engaged in all the causes that I it was a wonderful evening. People may think that I am discounting instant, I'm depressed by what's happened recently. Not at all he said and people like you and that evening sustain me and said, he Walder we have an obligation to finish writing the book that we plan to write which is about race in America. Good. Ordinary. I knew this man. I I remembered that my father was a espouse his calls. I was probably about four or five. I remember that. My mother said, oh, no, I'm a democrat and you're rolling dad's. But that was summoned substance of it well stars forward to my engagement with the life and times of of Wendell willkie. And I remembered I remembered that as a defining representation of the man's inner self, and so he was of course, unfortunately, defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in nineteen forty. In the campaign for the presidency. He had reached out to Walter white because he thought that his and credit as an opponent vigorous opponent and successful opponent of the queue Klux Klan in the place where he made his fame Akron, Ohio would be a credit to him. And that perhaps the NAACP light is not endorsed him in subtle ways. The a positive force in the contest. Of course, the NAACP was resolutely nonpartisan said it, but it was also resolutely officially unofficially. Pro a democrat point out. You have a wonderful picture in the book of wonder Wilkie sitting with Walter white. We have to take a break of my guest and pats guest is David levering Lewis. The improbable win the Wilkie the business. Man who saved the Republican party and his country and conceive the new world order when we come back, David. We're gonna play a little sound. I think you'll enjoy. But also, I want to know how he saved the Republican party how he saved his country, and how you would contrast him with the Republican party today here here on John Rothman. And I'm Pat Thurston. This is K GO. Thurston.