FDR: ‘Liberal forces have often been killed and buried…’

On this day in 1938: Accepting an honorary degree at the University of North Carolina (three years after the school gave one to his wife, Eleanor), President Franklin D. Roosevelt shrugs off New Deal losses in the recent elections: “The liberal forces have often been killed and buried, with the inevitable result that they have come to life again more vigorous than before.”

In a phrase that will come to identify the speech at Woollen Gymnasium, FDR denies that his favorite breakfast dish is “grilled millionaire.”

[How a persistent UNC student managed to “land a whale on a trout hook.”]


How to ‘land a whale on a trout hook’

“Voit Gilmore, 20… began working last summer to get the foremost U. S. political orator of the age down to Chapel Hill to address [the nonpartisan, undergraduate Carolina Political Union], which prides itself on paying no honorariums and on cross-questioning its speakers when they are through.

“In October he drove up to Washington, following a barrage of telegrams and letters, and made life miserable for White House Secretary Marvin Mclntyre until three weeks later, having industriously backed Mr. Roosevelt into a corner, he received word that the President would really come.

“Voit Gilmore then had to rush around raising $350 expense money. He told his hard-working mother (whom he calls ‘Bimble’) that he felt as though he had ‘landed a whale on a trout hook.’ At last, this week, Voit Gilmore rode over to the railroad station at Sanford, N. C. with Governor Hoey to receive the President.

“After becoming (for the 16th time) an LL.D., Franklin Roosevelt made a speech (broadcast nationwide) in which he invoked the shade of Theodore Roosevelt as a fighting ‘liberal,’ exhorted U. S. youth to ‘go places’ for Democracy [and most famously denied] ‘that I breakfasted every morning on a dish of “grilled millionaire.” ‘ ”

— From Time magazine, Dec. 12, 1938

Voit Gilmore went on to become a developer, public official, world traveler, environmentalist, writer and philanthropist. He died in Southern Pines in 2005. He was 87.