Not long ago, one of the major news magazines doctored a cover photo to make newly elected President Barack Obama resemble the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, complete with cigarette holder clenched in his teeth and a jaunty hat atop his head.
Interestingly, even though Mr. Obama's beautiful wife Michelle has graced many magazine covers, there haven't been many comparisons of her to Mr. Roosevelt's wife Eleanor, though Mrs. Obama, like Mrs. Roosevelt, is a pioneering figure who attracts the spotlight.
So it seems timely that the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center would bring in scholar/actress Susan Marie Frontczak to do her show, Eleanor Roosevelt: This Is My Story.
For the first part of the show, Ms. Frontczak assumes the character of Mrs. Roosevelt in vignettes with close friends and speaking at a lectern to the public. Those vignettes are followed by the audience asking questions of "Mrs. Roosevelt," and, finally, asking Mrs. Frantczak questions as a scholar on the subject of Mrs. Roosevelt.
I'm sure someone will ask, "What advice would you give the current first lady about being a very public first lady?"
And someone else will likely ask, "How would you compare Mrs. Roosevelt with Hillary Clinton," another active first lady.
Mrs. Roosevelt was one of a kind, and arguably the most politically influential first lady since Abigail Adams, the outspoken wife of the nation's third president, John Adams, and mother of its sixth, John Quincy Adams.
Because of Mr. Roosevelt's infirmities, Mrs. Roosevelt was often his eyes and ears in the outside world. She climbed ladders to inspect factories, went up wobbly stairs to inspect inner city tenements and visited military camps. One famous photo shows her on an open elevator going deep into the earth to a coal mine to inspect conditions there.
Her heart was always with the downtrodden, and she worked as hard as her husband in support of Social Security, minimum wages, child labor laws, women's rights, civil rights, and even the United Nations, institutions that to this day, many people cheer and others curse.
Mrs. Frontczak calls her presentations "Living History." She's copyrighted her official nickname, Storysmith, and says she "heats up, hammers and crafts her stories with strong forces, before letting them cool into a tale worth sharing."
She has given these Chautauqua-style presentations in the personas of scientist Marie Curie, author Mary Shelley and Mrs. Roosevelt in 24 states, Scotland and Canada.
Still, her writings indicate that Mrs. Roosevelt holds a special place for her.
"In times of strife, we must look to our heroes and heroines," she said. "Not only did they pave the way for where we are today, but their forgotten wisdom can guide us as we move forward."
My, oh my, we can certainly use some guidance and inspiration these days.
The show is at 2 p.m. on April 5. Tickets are $15. Call (727) 942-5605.
LEST WE BECOME TOO DISCOURAGED …
I was filing away a copy of my 2008 federal income tax form the other day and moaning about how terribly, horribly awful much I had to pay, when I ran across a copy of the 1973 Federal Income Tax Forms booklet.
I made some quick comparisons of tax rates today and tax rates then, and I felt pretty guilty about griping.
A married couple with taxable income of $100,000 and filing a joint return today would pay $17,681. In 1973, that would have been $45,180, plus 62 percent of any amount over $100,000 up to $120,000, or a little more than 21/2 times what they'd pay now.
A single person with taxable income of $50,000 today pays $8,850. Back in 1973, that would have been $20,190, plus 62 percent of anything over $50,000 up to $60,000.
At $100,000, that single person would pay $21,971 today, but back then, it would have been $53,090, plus 70 percent of anything over that.
A couple with taxable income of $200,000 back then? They'd pay $110,980, plus 70 percent of anything over $200K.
As for the Dow Jones index, it hit 1,000 for the first time in history in 1972 and didn't get to 1,100 until 1983.
When I moved from a financially hurting Houston to boom-boom Florida in 1986, several Houston apartment complexes were offering free rent until the DJ hit 2,000. Those lucky folks who took up that offer got more than a year's worth of free rent.
So when we wring our hands in despair over our sagging 401(k) accounts (and my hands are as red from wringing as anyone's), perhaps we should dig out these old books and papers and remind ourselves how quickly things can change.