Eleanor Roosevelt was America's first lady from 1933 to 1945. Her enduring accomplishment was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and her later role as representative of the United States in the United Nations. Although she championed many causes, cherry trees were often in her thoughts, words and deeds.
Returning the Favor
In the April 23, 1955 edition of Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" newspaper columns, she wrote: "During the war Tokyo's 3,000 cherry trees of 70 varieties all died because of a blight and of wartime neglect. From that mother stock in 1912 there had been sent to us 3,000 saplings from the famous grove on the banks of the Arakawa, in Tokyo's Adachi ward. For many years now people from all over the country have gone to Washington to see the cherry blossoms around the Potomac Tidal Basin.
"The people of Tokyo missed their cherry trees and their spring blossoms, and so in 1952 we sent 40 grafts, five each from eight varieties by air to Tokyo. They were grafted from 100 seedlings in the Metropolitan nursery. Last November they were replanted, together with 3,000 seedlings which were grown separately, along the banks of the Arakawa. This year the grafts from Washington are blossoming for the first time on seedlings which are almost 13 feet high. The people of Japan love beauty, and I think this little exchange may do a great deal to cement the friendship between our two countries."
Falkland Chase, a rental community in Silver Spring, Maryland, was one of the earliest affordable housing communities made possible by President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Eleanor Roosevelt presided at the inauguration by cutting the ribbon to officially open the cherry-tree-lined project.
In 1960, Mrs. Roosevelt planted Japanese cherry trees at the City College of New York (today's City University of New York campus). The planting honored the appointment of Townsend Harris, the founder of the college, as Consul General to Japan.
A Worthy Virtue
In a "My Day" column dated May 3, 1961, Mrs. Roosevelt praised the honesty of a man who returned $240,000 in cash that he found in the street, to its rightful owner, despite being mocked as a fool. "It is those who laugh who are foolish. Washington's 'cherry tree' was symbolic of a virtue that we really believe in here in the United States, and I think we had better get back to praising that virtue."
Situated along Cherry Tree Walk near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the FDR Memorial honors the 32nd President and first lady. The four separate areas of the memorial portray images of President Roosevelt's terms of office--from a breadline during the Great Depression to a man listening to one of FDR's fireside chats. A statue of the first lady depicts her before the United Nations emblem, fittingly close to the view and fragrance of the area's famous cherry trees.