INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN FENBERG
Executive Producer and Co-Writer
Steven Fenberg, executive producer and co-writer,
has been a student of the Jesse H. Jones legacy for a number of
years. After establishing the Jesse H. Jones Archive and developing
a permanent exhibit on Jones' life and contributions, Fenberg
began an oral history project to record the memories of those
who had known Jones. From there, the seeds of a documentary, Brother,
Can You Spare a Billion? The Story of Jesse H. Jones,
were sown. The multi-awarding winning program, which is narrated
by Walter Cronkite, airs April 3, 2000 from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.
ET on PBS stations nationwide (check
local listing). In the following interview, Fenberg shares
his thoughts on Jones and his own role in the project.
Q: Jesse Jones is not a familiar name to most
people. Why did you feel it was important to share his life story
and legacy through the PBS documentary Brother, Can You Spare
I felt it was important to tell Jesse Jones' story,
because to me, he embodies the best of capitalism. He shows us
how to increase personal wealth and improve the common good at
the same time. Jones also shows us how government programs can
be operated at a profit. He initiated and ran huge relief agencies
that made money for the Federal government during one our nation's
most disastrous economic events, the Great Depression. I think
that is something that deserves great attention today.
Q: Jesse Jones' contributions to the nation
are remarkable -- from helping to save the nation's economic system
during the Great Depression to transforming the Red Cross into
the worldwide relief agency it is today. What do you think Jones'
greatest contribution was?
I think Jones' greatest contribution was saving
capitalism during the Great Depression. I won't go as far as to
say that he solved the depression, because that happened with
the onset of World War II. But, he certainly put a strong foundation
under a crumbling economy through his agencies at the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation. And, he did so through the clever use of
credit. I think his other great contribution was militarizing
industry in time to fight and win World War II. Roosevelt knew
that he had to start the mobilization process, but he also understood
that if he approached Congress for appropriations, he would have
to fight the isolationists, which would have caused great delay.
Instead, he turned to Jones and the RFC to fund the defense plants
that would build the great "arsenal of democracy."