Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands tall in an age of greatness. His name will go down in history as among the greatest leaders to have ever lived, not just in his homeland, the United States, but to the rest of the world as well. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States, and is the only president to have been elected to an unprecedented fourth term. If not for his frail health and untimely death, he would probably have served as US President even longer than the twelve years he held the post.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ascended the leadership of the United States on March 5, 1933, he did so at a time when the country’s economic crisis was at its worst. (Heale 1999, 17) He took the reins of the Presidency during the height of the Great Depression. A lesser man would have probably balked, but not FDR, as Franklin D. Roosevelt is fondly called. Instead he rose to the challenge and valiantly steered his country to recovery, and himself to greatness. FDR was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York to a life of privilege and boundless opportunities.
Hyde Park is situated in the Hudson River Valley, and is famous for housing some of the country’s wealthiest families whose ancestry traces its roots to the landed gentry of the 17th century. Coker describes the birthplace of Franklin D. Roosevelt as “old-worldish” and aristocratic. (1999, 1) Both of his parents came from wealthy families, and he was their only child. He grew up attending the best private schools in the country. In his early years, he was educated at home by private tutors, as was the tradition for rich families back.
At home, he studied a variety of subjects and languages. When he reached his fourteenth year, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sent to Groton School, a private boarding school in Boston, Massachusetts. (Roberts 2003, 18) At his young age, FDR was smaller than his peers. His small stature and thin frame put him at a disadvantage in athletics. Nevertheless, FDR”s relation to Theodore Roosevelt, who at that time was already a prominent figure in politics, gave him some measure of popularity. (Roberts 2003, 19) FDR’s years at Groton have been influential in shaping the value systems of Franklin D.
Roosevelt. The headmaster of Groton School staunchly advocated civic responsibility and imbibed his students with the sense of responsibility of helping out the marginalized in society. Upon graduation, and filled with lofty and noble intentions, FDR entered Harvard. While a college student at Harvard, his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt became president of the United States. Franklin admired his cousin’s leadership style and his desire to enter public service has been largely inspired by his cousin. (Burgan 2002, 11)
Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency did not only pave the way for FDR’s own journey to the highest office in the United States, it was also responsible for FDR’s marriage. During an event at the White House, Franklin met Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant fifth-degree cousin who was also to be his future wife. Only three years after that encounter, Franklin married Eleanor and they went on to have six children. All but one of FDR’s children lived to their ripe old ages, but the third child, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. lived only for seven months.
While Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage was far from perfect, it remained intact, and Eleanor made for a formidable political ally all throughout FDR’s presidency. (Heale 1999, 23) All these time, the desire to enter public service never left FDR. In 1910 he felt he was ripe to run for elective office. He ran for senate as a Democrat and became New York’s Senator. His rise to politics was phenomenal, and its path ran straight and true. In 1920, only ten years after his first foray into elective office, FDR found himself a Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party with James M.
Cox as his Presidential running mate. Their team lost to the Republican Party, with Warren Harding at the helm. (Coker 1999, 37) Once again a private citizen, FDR went back to his New York law practice, but he never turned his back on his political calling. He never left the public’s consciousness and it was only a matter of time before he runs for elective office once again. His target is true and fate will soon lead him to his true destiny, but not without setbacks and challenges along the way.
In 1921, just a year after losing his bid for Vice President, Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio while on vacation. The illness left FDR a paraplegic, unable to move the lower half of his body. True to his nature, FDR did not allow the paralysis to paralyze his dreams for himself and for his country. He strengthened his upper body with swimming and all other possible types of therapies. He refused to accept that his paralysis is irrevocable and permanent and he fought it for the rest of his life and helped other polio patients like him.
He established a center for polio patients where they can avail of free therapies that feature the latest in existing technology. While history lists polio as the cause of FDR’s paralysis and other health problems, a recent study made in 2003 maintains that FDR’s illness was most likely due to Guillain-Barre syndrome (Goldman 2003), an illness that involves the peripheral nervous system, and is characterized by paralysis. Present medical technology allows for better management of this type of disease, but in FDR’s time, it is progressive and possibly fatal.
Notwithstanding his paralysis, FDR became governor of New York in 1929 after securing the Democratic Party’s nomination a year before. In 1930, FDR won a second term as governor of New York. His ascent went unabated and in 1932 he was a candidate to the highest post in the United States. He won by a convincing margin, due perhaps to the promise of hope and a better life for the Americans suffering from the crushing weight of the Great Depression. (Roberts 2003, 41) The United States that elected FDR was broken, with over ten million people unemployed.
Seeing that desperate times required for desperate measures, FDR’s `First 100 Days` were spent convening the Congress to a special session to pass sweeping and revolutionary reforms meant to help the economy recover. . (Heale 1999, 62) His “New Deal” was meant to channel the country’s meager funds to sectors that needed them the most. Military spending was slashed significantly, along with the pensions of veterans and their widows. When this was met with protests, FDR held his ground and kept cutting salaries and military budgets. He also cut the subsidy for research and education.
(Wikipedia 2007) During this time, a lot of government agencies and programs were organized, each with a specific responsibility. These agencies were called by their acronyms, which led some historians to refer to FDR’s government as the alphabet government. Notable among these are the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC is the most popular of all New Deal agencies, perhaps because the program was very simple and effective. This program worked on rural development projects, hiring hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men.
The CCC is also believed to be Roosevelt’s favorite because it was able to provide employment even as it helped develop the countryside. (Roberts 2003, 57) The Works Projects Administration (WPA) which was responsible for providing immediate employment to millions of people, mostly family heads. The (AAA) or the Agricultural Adjustment Administration was established because FDR made agriculture his priority. (Wikipedia 2007) The radical steps that FDR took were successful in stemming the economic hemorrhage of his country.
Three years after, when the United States was stabilizing, FDR entered into the second phase of his economic recovery plan, or the “Second Deal” During the “Second Deal”, FDR established the Social Security which promised to provide subsidy for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Every employee was required to pay for social security, and the funds were used on a rolling basis, where those who are working provide for those who are retired, sick, or otherwise unable to secure gainful employment.
Under the auspices of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the economy of the United States improved drastically. And as fate would have it, this economic recovery could not have taken place at a better time. Soon after steering clear of the Great Depression, FDR was tasked with the responsible of steering the country through the Second World War. Needless to say, he was also successful in this endeavor and the United States emerged from World War II as the world’s economic and political leader, all because of one man’s hope that better days will soon come.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt died during his fourth term as US President. He passed away a few months after establishing the United Nations, in the hopes of creating a world coexisting in mutual respect and cooperation. His death left a world in shock and grief, but he left just in time to plant the seeds of hope for a better and kinder world. For those of us left behind and under his shadow, it is incumbent that we keep alive his legacy of courage and hope against the many evils of the world.
Burgan, M. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Compass Point Books Coker, J. W. (2005). Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Biography. Greenwood Press. Goldman, A. S. et al (2003). What was the cause of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s paralytic illness?. JMed Biogr. Volume 11: 232–240. Heale, M. J. (1999). Franklin D. Roosevelt: The New Deal and War. Routledge. Roberts, J. (2003). Franklin D. Roosevelt By Inc NetLibrary. Twenty-First Century Books. Wikipedia article on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (25 October 2007). Retrieved November 5, 2007 from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Franklin_D. _Roosevelt