During his tenure as president of the National Trust, Richard Moe stood on the stage of historic theaters across the country 17 times to congratulate winners of the Crowninshield Award, preservation’s highest honor. This year it is his turn to be congratulated.
On Friday, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis, attendees at the National Preservation Conference honored Moe for his dedication and service to the field of preservation.
Moe retired in 2010 as the 7th president of the National Trust. But he didn’t sit back and relax. Instead he wrote a book. Titled, Roosevelt’s Second Act, Moe’s new book, which was released in September, focuses the election of 1940 and Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to seek a 3rd term in office.
Forum staff recently asked Moe to tell us about his decision to write about Roosevelt, especially since hundreds of books have already been written about our 32nd president.
Moe explains that he has always been drawn to American history and especially presidential history. He had a political background before coming to the National Trust both in Minnesota and Washington. He says, “Early on I was mentored by Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale who were heavily influenced by the presidency of FDR and his presence was huge in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, which I chaired from 1969 to 1972. So FDR was always a magnet for me.”
Moe said he knew that he wanted to write after his retirement from the Trust. Following up on the suggestion from a good friend to look at FDR's decision to run for an unprecedented 3rd term in 1940, Moe discovered that it hadn't been written about in any depth. He says, “I found it an absolutely fascinating subject to dive into. Almost everything that's been written about FDR’s presidency covers either the New Deal or World War II, and this decision and this election are the connective tissue that connects those two epochal achievements.”
The election of 1940 continues to influence our politics today, Moe explains, “FDR's initiatives, particularly sending destroyers to Britain and proposing Lend-Lease, greatly expanded the powers of the president in foreign policy and sowed the seeds of the national security state that the U.S. is today. There was no NSC or CIA or related agencies to advise the president then, but now there are almost too many to keep track of.”
It also has affected our foreign policy. “It pierced the veil of isolationism which was the prevailing element of our foreign policy from the beginning of the republic. The U.S. has ever since World War II been engaged with nations throughout the world in a way that it never was before,” Moe says.
Today, he notes, American people think differently about presidents, and presidential candidates and want know if that person has “the requisite experiences and skills to understand foreign affairs to protect the American people, which of course, is his/her chief responsibility”
Is there another book in the offing? Moe says that he will take his time with that. He and his wife Julia are planning to do more travel. “We now divide our time between DC and Santa Fe, but want to travel some, and in fact we'll be taking a National Trust trip to France next September to help celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary,” he says.
We had one more question for Moe: What will it be like to be on the receiving end? He says, “It will surely be a different experience to stand on that stage and receive the Crowninshield Award after giving it to others for 17 years. But I'm deeply honored and I think I'll be up to it. Maybe I'll even conclude that it's sometimes better to receive than to give!”
A couple of us in the Forum office were fortunate enough to work for Moe, but even those who started after his tenure, are immeasurably grateful for his leadership and his vision. We send our warmest congratulations.