FDR Award Honors Late President’s Legacy

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By Jade Stephen ’17

Midwood is known for many wonderful things like their programs, the sports games, and much more, but did you know about the Franklin D. Roosevelt Award (FDR Award)? The award ended in 1979 but began after the death of the well known president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945. It was originally given to those on the anniversary of the president’s birthday.

Many people were devastated by the loss of their president and wanted a way to continue honoring those who contributed to society just like the president ,who was known for being kind and always giving back to others. That is the reason behind the revival of this award.

According to Ms. Wendy Guida, it was a way for students to look outside of school and focus on those who are contributing to the world and trying to make it a better place. It allowed them to reward this person for their contribution. Not only that, but this award helps outshine all the bad that is shown on the news such as shootings and killings by showing those who are trying to spread love in places where people aren’t able to see another day.

It was also significant due to the fact that it showed what the students cared about the most in society and showed what was important to them over the years.

Though we don’t know if we’re the only school who has this award, it’s special to us.

“It’s unique in that it’s given in the honor of the president and awarded entirely by students,” Ms.Guida stated.

When Midwood first opened, everything in the school was student run with no teachers supervising. The clubs had student commissioners just like SING has student commissioners. So, the FDR award was similar due to the fact that Midwood had a strong student government. There was even a committee within the student government which organized this whole event.

Even when writing the letter to President Barack Obama, there was a committee of five students who wrote the letter which shows how everything is still going to be student run.

In order to determine what would be happening on the award show when it’s revived, they are looking in the past to try to piece together everything that used to happen based on documents.

Based on a program from 1958, when Jesse Owens received an award, they began with scriptures from the bible, since back then they weren’t really strict on the separation of the church and state, and then give opening remarks.

This is followed by the significance of giving the award which is then followed by a performance from the chorus, and then there would be someone introducing the winner to the crowd. Finally, the person would give a speech. After the speech is given by the winner they would end with music.

According to Ms.Guida, there is an alumnus from the class of 1957, who is really interested in writing about this award for the 75 anniversary of Midwood. The alumnus is really looking into this and looking at archives in order to find old speeches and other information. These papers are housed in these archives that are available to many scholars.

In order to choose a winner, students are exposed to the different recipients in the past who have won this award. They are then told to look up one the winners and see what they’ve done to give back to society. Then the students will come up with nominees for this award giving their reasons why they chose the person that they chose and then narrowed it down to 18 semifinalists. Then they later narrowed it down to the top three.

  One of the people in the top three was Joan Baez, who many of the students didn’t know about until someone explained to them her accomplishments and her contributions to society. The second person in the top three was Malala Yousafzai and lastly President Barack Obama.

Then there was a final vote amongst the students which resulted in the president winning. After the decision they wrote a letter and sent it out to the president.

The only time there will be a need of funding for the award would be for security, but other than that there will be no need. The alumni association will pay for the plaques which will have the person’s name on it and the reasons why they have won this award. Principal Michael McDonnell is on board with the award going into effect and actually chuckled at the idea of trying to get the president here.

In terms of transportation, we still won’t have to pay.

“In the past a lot of the people either lived in New York or were going to be travelling to New York for different reasons,” Ms. Guida stated. “Eleanor Roosevelt, when she came in 1952, she worked with the United Nations so she was in New York at the time. So the people are lovely enough to make their way here.”

Some of the people were unable to come to receive the award, so they would send someone in their honor to receive the award for them like a proxy.

The first person to receive this award was Frank Sinatra then Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Eddie Cantor, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall actually won this award before he became Supreme Court Justice. He was well known for working on the Brown vs. Board of Education case.

“Sometimes people are already famous for certain things, and go onto even more wonderful things,” Ms. Guida said.

There are many more people who have won but those were to name a few. However, there were a few women who won the award. Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson, and Betty Shabazz were the only women to win this award.

There is no actual day planned to have the awards or any ideas of when the awards will be taking place or how they would carry it out along with who will be able to participate in this award. But back then, there were many assemblies for different things unlike today where we have assemblies for information.

“I would certainly want my students to be there, who have voted, but I don’t know when this is going to happen. To be announced,” Ms. Guida said.

The event would be recorded in every way they can possibly think of unlike back then when there would only be articles in Argus about it and a few photographs.

There is a guest book which is in the hand of the principal that have all the signatures of famous people who ever came to Midwood along with others who weren’t so famous. Jackie Robinson’s autograph is in there along with some Knicks players, Jesse Owens and many more.

Though it was Ms.Guida’s class that voted this year, she’s hoping that next year the whole school will vote maybe during their English or Social Studies class.

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