Franklin Delano Roosevelt
(1882 - 1945)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States; he was elected to four terms – the longest-running President in U.S. history. “FDR,” as he became known, was from a wealthy and prominent New York family; he attended Harvard College and Columbia University Law School and worked at a law firm in New York City. While in college, Roosevelt married his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, who became one of the most admired women in the world.
Roosevelt became disenchanted with the law and entered politics, running first for a New York State Senate seat. In 1913, President Wilson appointed him as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1921, Roosevelt was stricken by polio and paralyzed, but through strenuous rehabilitation efforts regained some use of his legs. He was elected Governor of New York in 1928.
Roosevelt became President in 1933, a time when the United States was mired in an economic depression and record unemployment. This state of affairs was described as having been the worst American crisis since the Civil War. As President, Roosevelt engineered the program for economic relief and recovery known as the New Deal, pulling together labor unions, political heavyweights, whites, blacks and southerners.
When Roosevelt took office in 1933, his famous comment "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," was directed at the then-existing bank panic. Roosevelt urged Congress to pass the Emergency Banking Act which created among other programs the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Roosevelt also supported and successfully pushed through Congress several different relief programs to spark economic recovery and to provide jobs.
Roosevelt's most famous long-term contribution was the establishment of Social Security, insurance for the elderly, poor and disabled. He also was a supporter of the Wagner Act–the National Labor Relations Act-- which established rights of workers to organize and to engage in collective bargaining.
Roosevelt reached out to the general population of the United States through his famous "Fireside Chats," a weekly radio show which was immensely popular.
Roosevelt maintained an isolationist stance as political affairs leading up to World War II occurred; in the face of American opposition to supporting the war in Europe, Roosevelt covertly supplied support to Great Britain with the famous “Cash and Carry” plan for armaments. Roosevelt also offered aid to the Republic of China, supporting that country against Japan and its occupations throughout Southeast Asia.
When the Japanese bombed the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, killing 2,400 American service personnel and civilians, the United States was irrevocably drawn into the war. Roosevelt gave his famous "Infamy" speech to Congress: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." On December 8, 1941, Roosevelt appeared before Congress which declared war. In 1942, FDR secretly met with Winston Churchill to establish The Atlantic Charter which set forth ideals for a post-war world, including the founding of a a multi-national organization committed to making a better, more peaceful world--the United Nations.
Although Roosevelt participated in the Yalta Conference negotiations to end World War II, he did not live to see the end of the war. FDR died at his resort at Warm Springs, Georgia, in April, 1945–just weeks before the German surrender–and four months before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena."Theodore Roosevelt