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The world has known many great leaders, especially in the post-Civil War era. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harry Truman all rank with the most prominent leaders of all time. However, in my opinion President Franklin Roosevelt made the most difference out of anybody in this century. He began a new era in American history by ending the Great Depression that the country had succumbed to in 1929. Without him ending the Depression, who knows where this country could have gone? His social reforms gave most people a new perspective on government. Government was not only expected to protect the people from foreign invaders and affairs, but to protect against poverty and joblessness in oneís own country as well. He not only changed the country for the better of everyone, he also made substantial gains on what a president could do for his country. His accomplishments as president will never be duplicated. Public opinion was so overwhelmingly for him that he was elected to office four times, which most likely will never be duplicated again. His reign in office came at, by the far and away, the most difficult time in American history. Not only did he accept the challenges at hand, he rose to the occasion and took this country to another level.
Roosevelt was born on January 30 near New York City. He graduated from Harvard in 1904 and attended Law School. Although he didn't get his law degree, he was admitted to the New York bar in 1907. He was elected to the New York senate in 1910 and was appointed by Woodrow Wilson as assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held during World War I.
Roosevelt ran for vice-president in 1920 and lost. In 1921, he was stricken with polio, which left his legs paralyzed. Twice he was elected Governor of New York and in 1932, he defeated Herbert Hoover for President. After taking office, Roosevelt immediately took drastic action to respond to the Great Depression. He promoted labor laws the benefited unions and Social Security.
Re-elected for unprecedented third and fourth terms in 1940 and 1944, Roosevelt was the American leader through almost all of World War II. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Georgia on April 12, 1945, shortly before the end of the war.
Roosevelt went all out in 1931 in order to prepare for the election of 1932. He took some chances, but they ended up paying off in the end. Never attempted before, he started a nationwide radio address, outlining a program to meet the economic problems of the nation. He coined the term "forgotten man" to mean all of those who had been hard hit by the evils of the depression. These radio addresses were the start to what he called the "fireside chats". Without TV to occupy most peopleís time, most American families who had gathered around a radio listened to these ďfireside chatsĒ.
Rooseveltís competition was fairly tough the first time he ran for office. Not only did he barely win the election, he also had trouble winning the nomination for his own party. He was up against John Nance Garner (who would be his Vice Presidential running mate), Newton D. Baker, Alfred E. Smith. For three ballots, Roosevelt held a large lead, but lacked the two-thirds margin necessary for victory. He was desperately going to need some help to win this one. His campaign manager then promised John Garner the vice presidential nomination, which he grudgingly accepted. Although John didnít want to be vice president, he figured Vice President is better than no President at all. Due to this deal, Roosevelt took the presidential nomination on the fourth ballot.
Roosevelt made a dashing introduction at the Chicago convention by being the first nominee to ever write an acceptance speech. It was his first in a long line of great, powerful speeches to come. The last line in his speech, "I pledge to you, I pledge to myself, to a new deal for the American people", fired the audience up. During the November campaign against Hoover, Roosevelt talked about a few parts of his "New Deal".
He spoke of relief and public works money. He wanted to develop a plan to cut agricultural overproduction.
However, Roosevelt was quite vague about other plans. He mentioned little about his plans for industrial recovery or labor laws. He talked very little of foreign policy during the campaign. Many believe that he was simply trying to home in on the problems that the American public saw most prominent at the time, which would obviously win him votes. But when it came to election day, Roosevelt seemed like the only viable alternative to Herbert Hoover, who many blamed for the Great Depression. Given this fact Roosevelt could have said just about anything and won the presidency that year. Experts on the subject thought that it was all the administrations leading up to Hoover that doomed the country before him, but public perception was against him. Most Americanís stuck to their opinion despite the facts. Roosevelt won with 22,821,857 votes compared to Hoover's 15,761,841. He also won the electoral 472 to 59. The voters had sent large majorities of Democrats to both houses as well, which helped Roosevelt to accomplish more by pushing through more bills, which his own party supported.
As expected, a landslide won Rooseveltís second election. The public was quite impressed with his accomplishments in his previous term. He received 27,751,491 popular votes and carried 46 states with 523 electoral votes. His opponent only received 16,679,491 popular votes to go with 8 electoral. This reflected the nation's confidence in Roosevelt, more than his opponentís own faults and flaws. The nation, under Roosevelt had come a long way, but still had a long way to go. He didnít deny this fact, stating in his inauguration address, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished". He knew he had his work cut out for him. Roosevelt ran again in 1940. The Republicans based their campaign on the tradition that no President had ever gone for a third term in succession. To counter this, Roosevelt put the spotlight on his administration's achievements. Because of the risky situation abroad, many felt that Roosevelt's expertise was needed in case war broke out. The election results were closer this time. Roosevelt received 27,243,466 popular votes and 449 electoral votes, compared to Wilkie who received 22,334,413 popular votes and 82 electoral votes. This was a milestone for him, winning for the third time in a row, something that most likely will never be achieved again.
When it was time for Roosevelt's third term to end, he initially said he wanted to retire. However, he later declared that he felt it was his duty to serve if his country called on him. Much of this feeling was based on the idea that it would be a bad thing for the country to change leadership in the middle of the war. Many of the president's advisors felt he would not live through a fourth term. Because of his condition, the Vice President nomination for the 1944 election became very important. Harry Truman of Missouri was chosen to fill the spot.
Again the Republicanís argument was term length. No President should serve for 16 years, they declared. The opposing argument by the Democrats was that no country should "change horses in mid-stream". Roosevelt drove around the streets of New York City in a rainstorm and then made a speech to show that his health was not a major issue. Roosevelt received 25,602,505 votes and 432 electoral votes and his Republican opponent received 22,013,372 popular votes and 99 electoral votes.
By the time Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the economic situation was desperate. Between 13 and 15 million Americans were unemployed. Thousands lived in cardboard shacks called "hoovervilles". Even more were standing in bread lines hoping to get a few crumbs for their family. Panic-stricken people hoping to rescue their deposits had forced 38 states to close their banks. The Depression hit all levels of the social scale. In one of his addresses, he pushed confidence with his statement, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". He pushed his presidential power to the limit. He made the bold request to Congress to allow him "broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were invaded by a foreign foe."
Because of the Depression, there were "runs" to the bank that people were making to pull their deposits out in return for paper cash and gold. Many banks were not fit to handle this rush. Roosevelt declared a "bank holiday" that began on March 6, 1933 and lasted for four days. All banks in the nation were closed until the Department of Treasury could examine each one's fiscal situation. Those that were determined to be in sound financial condition were allowed to reopen. Those banks that had been badly operated were not allowed to reopen. During the FDR administration, 5,504 banks had closed and deposits of nearly $3.5 billion dollars were lost. Shortly after the President restored confidence in the banks, what is now known as the "100 days" began on March 9 and ended on June 16, 1933.
The President at once began to submit recovery and reform laws for congressional approval. Congress passed nearly all the important bills that he requested, most of them by large majorities. The fact that there was a Democratic party majority in both houses helped speed things along. What emerged from these 100 days was a 3-fold focus, RELIEF-RECOVERY-REFORM. One of the relief
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