During the New Deal years of the Great Depression, U.S. Rep. John Taber (R-Auburn) who represented much of the Finger Lakes region, strongly opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic programs. During a debate on one of Roosevelt’s proposals, Taber’s bellowing was amplified through the loudspeakers. Rep. Leonard Schultz of Chicago, who had left ear deafness since birth, began to shake convulsively. He staggered to the cloakroom and collapsed onto a couch believing he’d been hit in an air raid. Schultz suddenly discovered he could hear with his left ear. When physicians confirmed Schultz’s left ear hearing was restored, Taber proclaimed what happened to Schultz was God’s way of showing that the New Deal should be shouted down. (Source: Doris Kearns Goodwin, “No Ordinary Time,” p. 34)

When I recently read about this incident, I wanted to write a letter to the editor to comment on Taber’s proclamation, but I would be almost 80 years too late to do so. Here is what I think I would have written if I had been an adult during The New Deal era.


To the Editor:

While President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs have not ended the Depression, these programs — including Social Security, unemployment insurance, wage and hour laws, abolition of child labor, Civilian Conservation Corps, Federal Emergency Relief Act, Tennessee Valley Authority — have done much to alleviate the despair and hopelessness that paralyzed our country prior to Roosevelt’s New Deal.

U. S. Rep. John Taber’s opposition to these progressive programs shows great insensitivity to the needs of millions who have benefitted from The New Deal.

I have no explanation for how Rep. Leonard Schultz regained his hearing, but I don’t believe what happened was proof from God that the New Deal should be shouted down. I hope that in the years and centuries ahead of us, the responsibilities of our federal government to protect children, elderly and disabled people, to eliminate or reduce unemployment, and to provide relief when natural disasters strike us, will not be forgotten.

I hope the federal government will always promote the general welfare over the welfare of special interests that make huge political campaign contributions. I hope the federal government will always prioritize the need for clean water, clean air and clean grounds for all of us. And I hope the federal government will always initiate and enforce laws and policies based on the mindset of President Abraham Lincoln who said, “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”

Joel Freedman



As I look over my copy of the above letter I imagine I mailed with a two cents stamp in 1940, I realize that mailing it in 2019 is as relevant today as it would have been if it had been mailed in 1940. After all, a look at how a president dealt with major problems and issues confronting our country during the 1930s and early 1940s can be of great value in guiding us in the present era and in establishing a foundation to enable governments — state and local as well as federal — to truly practice what is recited in the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Joel Freedman of Canandaigua is a frequent contributor to the Daily Messenger.