On Monday, Roosevelt hosted the 24th Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Lecture. This year’s guest lecturer was Dr. Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute in New York, NY. Dr. Wong discussed “The Hidden Rules of Race: Why We Can’t Pit Racial and Economic Justice Against One Another.”
“The topic of this lecture is both timely and timeless,” said Margaret Rung, professor of history and director of the University’s Center for New Deal Studies, during her introduction. “There has been a tendency to plot economic and racial justice on different axes throughout American history, and even New Deal legislation did not always recognize the need to address economic and racial justice simultaneously.”
Dr. Wong argued that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt brought values, moral beliefs, and a world view to the struggle for economic and racial justice. While New Deal policies often fell short of achieving both concurrently, Americans felt a deep personal connection to the Roosevelts and believed that change was possible. Wong stated, “we need political heroes today who can effectively make the case to voters that economic and racial justice are achievable.” She encouraged today’s politicians not to fear addressing the racial and economic divide in American politics. “Progressive ideas are popular, but progressives lose elections. We have to do a better job of communicating our ideas to the public.”
Dr. Felicia Wong became President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute in 2012. With the values and principles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt as its guide, the Institute has become an incubator of ideas and communication that demonstrate the need for equity, transparency, and fairness in politics, society and economics. As the co-author of the recently published book by Cambridge University Press, The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy, Dr. Wong advances the idea that inequality is a choice, not the unfortunate accident of technological change or uncontrollable forces of globalization. If inequality is a choice, then so is equality, and it is incumbent on all of us to make choices that lead to a more inclusive nation and society.