A Q&A With Curtis Roosevelt, FDR's Grandson

Photographs from Curtis Roosevelt's new memoir, "Too Close to the Sun."
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Curtis Roosevelt was just 3 years old when he and his older sister Eleanor moved into the White House with their newly separated mother, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's only daughter. For Eleanor and Curtis -- known to the public as "Sistie and Buzzie" -- it was the beginning of a life under great scrutiny. Photographers routinely came to photograph them playing. Now 78 and retired in the South of France, the former U.N. diplomat and professor is visiting the United States to promote his newly published memoir, "Too Close to the Sun."

-- Jennifer Frey

You describe life in the White House as "living in a fishbowl." Any advice for what the Obama daughters have in store?

They're going to find that no matter how cohesive a family they may be -- and from the glimpse on TV of those children with their parents, I get a strong sense of a well-connected family, which was not the case with me -- they just will not have the privacy you're used to when you come into your own home.

What kind of impact do you think that will have on their lives?

The Obama children inevitably are going to be marked by this, but I hope their parents are a little more sensible. I was told "we" (we being my mother and my grandmother) don't like our picture being taken. "We" do not court photographs. And yet, my grandfather always invited us into pictures. And my grandmother brought photographers to the White House lawn. And my mother would talk about us to the press.

How did it affect you and your family?

For two of my uncles, Franklin Jr. and Jimmy, I think it had a terrible effect on them, and I'm glad I was not their age by any means. They had enormous potential to do something quite grand in political life, but I don't think they ever got out from under being the president's sons.

And you?

I didn't get out from being "Buzzie," the president's grandson, most of my life. But I can say, having emerged from it in my early 60s -- I'm now 78! -- it's very nice to have my own identity.

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