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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-19

French Socialist and former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal may need to revisit her American history books after she was caught quoting the wrong Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also known as FDR, c1933 © Library of Congress

French Socialist Ségolène Royal, President François Hollande’s ex-wife and a former presidential candidate, has been quoting the wrong Roosevelt, according to French website In her recently published book, Cette belle idée du courage (loosely translatable as “A Grand Vision of Courage"), Royal used the sentence, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are,” wrongly attributing it to the 32nd US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In fact, it was the 26th president of the US Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, also known as FDR.

The book isn’t the only place she used the quote. Nicolas Sarkozy’s former opponent has been heavily promoting the book to French media, making the same mistake over and over again.

Though she was quoting Teddy, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt she wanted to pay tribute to. A chapter of her book is entirely dedicated to FDR and Royal said she was interested in the work and personality of the New Deal founder.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt c1904 © Library of Congress

The original line is found in Teddy Roosevelt’s memoirs, An Autobiography, revealed. And it turns out Teddy Roosevelt was himself quoting “a bit of homely philosophy” from someone he refers to as a squire from Virginia:

“And as for a life deliberately devoted to pleasure as an end—why, the greatest happiness is the happiness that comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done, even though sorrow is met in the doing. There is a bit of homely philosophy, quoted by Squire Bill Widener, of Widener's Valley, Virginia, which sums up one's duty in life: ‘Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.’”

Gaffe-prone Royal recognized her mistake, telling she was happy to know people read her book so closely.

“I quoted that sentence from memory because it’s a line we’ve been telling each other from generation to generation,” she said.

Date created : 2013-05-18


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