A talk about the life of Harry Hopkins, a spectral figure in the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. On the evening of May 10, 1940— the day the Germans overran Western Europe and the day Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain—the president asked Hopkins, a widower with a seven-year-old daughter, to spend the night at the White House because he wasn’t feeling well. Hopkins was the man who came to dinner and never left. He and his daughter lived in the White House for the next 3 ½ years.
During those years, as America was drawn into the maelstrom of the Second World War, Iowa-born Harry Hopkins, trained as a social worker, would devote his life to helping the president win the war. He would shortly form a lifelong friendship with Churchill and his wife Clementine. He would even earn the respect of Joseph Stalin, the brutal dictator of the Soviet Union. And he would play a critical role—or perhaps THE critical role—in establishing the alliance between the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union that won the war.
It was the chemistry between Roosevelt and Hopkins that proved so fateful to the nation and the world. If not for their relationship, Hopkins would never have even met Churchill and Stalin, much less have any influence over the wartime coalition. Their relationship worked because Hopkins, a linear thinker, could translate and then convert the president’s vision into concrete action. Their relationship clicked because Hopkins could sense the president’s moods. He came closer than anyone else to gaining admittance to what one writer said was Roosevelt’s “heavily forested interior.” Hopkins knew when to be still, when to press a point, when to tell a joke. He had the right touch.
David Roll is a non-fiction author. He has written: “The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler” (Oxford, 2013), which has been nominated for a Pulitzer prize, “Louis Johnson and the Arming of America: The Roosevelt and Truman Years (Indiana University Press, 2005), and “The FTC as an Antitrust Enforcement Agency: Its Structure Powers and Procedures (American Bar Association, 1979). In 2005, Mr. Roll founded the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. The Foundation calls upon a global network of top-tier commercial law firms to provide pro bono legal services to social entrepreneurs. Since its inception, the Foundation has supported over 365 social entrepreneurs on over 800 legal matters in 35 U.S. states and 55 countries. See www.lexmundiprobono.org.
In 2010, the Foundation launched Law For Change, an innovative legal resource that supports, strengthens and empowers people and organizations in the U.S. (and soon global) social sector that are dedicated to improving lives and bringing about positive social change. See www.lawforchang.org. In 2007, Mr. Roll’s contribution to the creation and management of the Foundation was recognized when Civic Ventures made him a Purpose Prize Fellow. Mr. Roll is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where his practice has focused on antitrust and administrative law and litigation. From 1993 through 1998, he served as Chairman of the law firm.
In recent years, Mr. Roll has acted as outside litigation and antitrust counsel for the American Bar Association. Mr. Roll is responsible for establishing Steptoe’s membership in Lex Mundi, a global alliance of high quality law firms which enables Steptoe to meet clients’ needs throughout the world. Prior to joining Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Mr. Roll was Assistant Director in the Bureau of Competition of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission where he was responsible for the investigation and litigation of approximately one quarter of the FTC’s antitrust cases. Mr. Roll was educated at Amherst College (B.A. economics) and The University of Michigan Law School (J.D.)