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
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