About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Watching Darkness Fall: FDR, His Ambassadors, and the Rise of Adolf Hitler

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s conversation with David McKean about his new book, Watching Darkness Fall.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up next month on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, February 1, at 1 p.m., we’ll hear from Sara Polak, who will discuss her book FDR in American Memory: Roosevelt and the Making of an Icon. She analyzes Roosevelt as a cultural icon in American memory, a historical leader who carefully and intentionally built his public image.

And on Tuesday, February, 8, at 1 p.m., David O. Stewart will share his story of how George Washington became the dominant force in the creation of the United States of America. His new book, George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father, unveils the political education that made Washington a master politician—and America’s most essential leader.

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Ambassadors serve as the President’s representative abroad, but perhaps more importantly, as his eyes and ears in foreign capitals.

In the years leading up to the second World War, President Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassadors in key European capitals—London, Berlin, Rome, Paris, and Moscow—observed and reported on the rise of fascism and the outbreak of war.

The National Archives’ Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library contains letters and reports from these ambassadors—Joseph Kennedy, William Dodd, Breckinridge Long, and William Bullitt—and a number of those documents are available online.

David McKean’s new book, Watching Darkness Fall, brings together these four perspectives and more. Daniel Ford, in his Wall Street Journal book review, declares that “McKean tells his story easily and well” and “has a sharp eye for detail beyond diplomacy.”

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David McKean is the former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg and former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State. He is currently a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. His books include High Places, a 1995 New York Times “Notable Book”; Tommy the Cork, a Washington Post Book World cover and “Best Books of 2004”; and The Great Decision.

He previously served as CEO of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and has also served as a member of the National Archives Foundation board of directors.

Now let’s hear from David McKean. Thank you for joining us today.