Background/Early Life

• Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born and raised in a privileged family in Hyde Park, New York. He was tutored at home until age 14, and after attending a private school for his high school years, graduated from Harvard College.

• Franklin admired his distant cousin Theodore Roosevelt, who was president during the years Franklin was at Harvard, and this was one of the things that spurred him to enter politics. He began as a New York state senator, and after supporting Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaign, FDR was named assistant secretary of the Navy. He served in that capacity during World War I and unsuccessfully ran for office as a U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate before taking a job at a financial firm.

• While he was working in the financial firm FDR contracted polio, leaving him partially paralyzed and in a state where he was unable to recover full use of his legs. He spent most of the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

• FDR became governor of New York just before the stock market crash in 1929. He was re-elected in 1930 with the Great Depression underway, and his leadership in New York during that difficult time was part of the reason he was elected president of the United States in 1932.

How he defined the office

• Roosevelt’s unprecedented four presidential election wins speak to his popularity and success in the office. But it also led to the passage of the 22nd amendment in 1951, which limited a president to two terms in office as people realized the potential downside to having a president serve more than eight years.

• FDR communicated with the country through “fireside chats,” speaking often to the American populace over the radio.

Successes and failures

• President Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” to help lead America out of the Great Depression. This included, among other aspects, stabilizing the banking system and creating jobs. His administration created the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Civil Works Administration, which provided jobs building bridges, roads and airports, cleaning beaches and planting trees. The Tennessee Valley Authority created jobs that helped bring electricity and roads to parts of the country that didn’t have them. While many of the moves the administration made had impacts on the economy – some positive, some negative – none brought an end to the Great Depression without the help of World War II.

• Roosevelt was president when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, leaving the U.S. no choice but to join the international conflict. Roosevelt made the decision to enter the war, but he would not live to see it come to an end.

• Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945, shortly after beginning his fourth term in office.

notable quote

• “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is feat itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” — from his first inaugural address.