Monday, December 7, 2009
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I chose to blog about Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), nicknamed FDR while in office, simply because he was President when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I have some very mixed feelings about this President. I was born while he was in office, but he died soon after my birth. I admire the way he overcame physical problems and showed strong leadership during World War II, and yet I am amazed at his egotism that would cause him to even want to be President for such a long time. Besides, I believe that his New Deal moved our nation down the road towards socialism. His administration put programs in place that are causing financial problems for our country right now. FDR was born January 30, 1882, on his father's estate in Hyde Park, New York, and was the only child of wealthy parents. He studied under governesses and private tutors until he was 14. He then went to Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Groton, he attended and graduated from Harvard University. He attended Columbia University Law School where he passed the bar examination but left school without a degree and with no interest to practice law. While at Harvard he courted his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and became engaged to her the year he graduated. His mother was a domineering woman and tried to convince her son to end the engagement. FDR and Eleanor were married on March 17, 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor's uncle, gave the bride away. (Theodore and FDR were fifth cousins.) The Roosevelts had six children. FDR enjoyed swimming, sailing, and sledding with his children, whom the Roosevelts called "the chicks." FDR entered politics as a New York state senator at age 29 and became known as a "bold and skillful political fighter." In 1912 FDR supported Woodrow Wilson against his cousin Theodore Roosevelt in the presidential election. Wilson became President and appointed FDR as the assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. He sought the Democratic nomination as a candidate for the United States Senate in 1914 but lost. In April 1917 when the United States entered World War I, he wanted to serve in the military, but he was persuaded to stay in his position with the Navy. In 1920, at age 38, he was a candidate for United States Vice President on a ticket with James M. Cox. They were defeated by Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In August 1921 FDR became ill with polio and suffered severe pain. He could not stand or even move his legs. His back, arms and hands were partially paralyzed. His condition worsened within months, and many people thought that his political career was over. His mother tried to convince him to retire. He began to fight back against the disease and by 1924 went swimming as often as possible. He spent several months each year at Warm Springs, Georgia. In 1926 he bought the springs and surrounding land and established the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation the next year with a group of friends. The foundation provided low-cost treatment for "polios," Roosevelt's word for his fellow sufferers. FDR returned to the political arena while learning to walk again. His first public speech since his polio attack was to nominate New York Governor Alfred E. Smith for President at the Democratic National Convention. Smith won the nomination and encouraged FDR to run for governor of New York. Smith lost his campaign to Herbert Hoover and didn't even carry his home state of New York. FDR barely won his campaign to become governor of New York. As governor, he supported a variety of progressive legislation. After the Great Depression began in October 1929, he began the first system for relief of the unemployed in New York. He easily won reelection in 1930. In the presidential election of 1932, he beat out the incumbent, President Herbert Hoover, and promised a "new deal" to lead the nation out of the depression. He became President on March 4, 1933, at the age of 51. His inauguration was the last one held in March. Amendment 20 to the Constitution moved all later inaugurations to January. The depression grew worse with thousands of unemployed workers standing in bread lines. Many farmers and city workers lost their homes and many more were about to lose theirs because of lack of funds to pay their mortgages. The country survived a banking crisis in 1933 because FDR closed all banks and reopened only the ones in good financial condition. In spite of many progressive solutions, such as unemployment legislation, public work projects, and the other unemployment programs, the Great Depression continued. All the government programs cost more than the government was collecting in taxes. The deficit was settled partly by raising taxes and partly by borrowing money by selling government bonds. The national debt was higher than ever before. It is sad to say that our nation was rescued from the Depression by World War II. FDR, like Abraham Lincoln, was either deeply loved or bitterly hated. Millions believed he was the friend and protector of the "common man" - the key to FDR's success in politics. His critics believed that his policies, called the New Deal, gave the federal government too much power. He was accused of usurping many of the rights that the Constitution gave to the states. He even tried to push through a Second Bill of Rights. There was much concern that the free enterprise system might be destroyed by government controls over business. While FDR was President, the New Deal recovery measures were enacted (1933), prohibition was repealed (1933), the Social Security Act was passed (1935), Supreme Court controversy happened over FDR's attempt to "pack" the court (1937), the United States began selling arms to friendly nations on a cash and carry basis (1939), Congress passed the Selective Service Act (1940), Pearl Harbor was attacked (December 7) and war was declared (1941), 26 nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations and the Allies invaded Normandy, France (1944). FDR served as President of the United States for more than 12 years, longer than any other person. He was the only President to be elected four times. No previous President ran for the office more than twice. The Constitution was changed after FDR's death to allow Presidents only two terms in office. FDR died in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, just 83 days after his fourth inauguration. Facts are from article written by James T. Patterson, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pp 452-453.