Franklin Delano Roosevelt | Murat Shrine

 
 


Close Window

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945)

32nd U.S. President

By Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

He lifted the U.S. out of economic despair and revolutionized the American way of life. Then he helped make the world safe for democracy.

Perhaps no form of government," said Lord Bryce, "needs great leaders as much as democracy." For democracy is not self-executing. It takes leadership to bring democracy to life. Great democratic leaders are visionaries. They have an instinct for their nation's future, a course to steer, a port to seek. Through their capacity for persuasion, they win the consent of their people and call forth democracy's inner resources. Democracy has been around for a bit, but the 20th century has been the crucial century of its trial, testing and triumph. At the century's start, democracy was thought to be spreading irresistibly across the world. Then the Great War, the war of 1914-18, showed that democracy could not assure peace. Postwar disillusion activated democracy's two deadly foes: fascism and communism. Soon the Great Depression in the 1930s showed that democracy could not assure prosperity either, and the totalitarian creeds gathered momentum.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York to James Roosevelt and Sara Delano. Of Dutch ancestry, Roosevelt attended Harvard University, graduating in 1904 and received his law degree from Columbia Law School.

On March 17, 1905, he married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of President Theodore Roosevelt and a distant cousin.
A prominent Democrat, from 1911 to 1913, he served in the New York Senate until he was asked by President Woodrow Wilson to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913. In 1920, he ran for Vice President of the United States, on a ticket with James Cox. After being defeated, Roosevelt worked as an attorney in New York and served as Vice President of the Fidelity & Deposit Company.

On August 21, 1921, Roosevelt was stricken by poliomyelitis. He never again walked unaided. His disability was largely kept from public knowledge; he was rarely photographed in his wheelchair and learned to walk with the use of leg braces and a cane.

In 1928, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York and served for two terms. In 1932, the Democratic Party nominated him for the Presidency and he was elected to his first term on November 8, 1932. The 32nd President of the United States, Roosevelt served for an unprecedented four terms from 1933 to 1945, leading the nation through a time of great turmoil and upheaval.

He first took office during the Great Depression, proclaiming a New Deal for the American people. His New Deal legislation introduced the use of public funds for relief and public works, from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to the GI Bill, which educated thousands of veterans. He created numerous new government agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and others. During his third term, America entered World War II and President Roosevelt led a series of high-level diplomatic conferences which created the Allied Nations coalition and led to the development of the United Nations.

He became best known for his "fireside chats" and was the first President to broadcast regularly to the American people via radio. His first Fireside Chat was broadcast on March 12, 1933, from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.

Roosevelt appointed the first woman ambassador to a foreign country — Ruth Bryan Owens — who served in Denmark and named the first woman to a cabinet post — Frances Perkins — who served as Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. His Vice Presidents included John Nance Garner (first and second term), Henry Wallace (third term) and Harry Truman (fourth term), who succeeded Roosevelt when he died in office at Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945 of natural causes.