Our 32nd President: 1933-1945
Just the Facts:
- His nickname was “FDR.”
- FDR was president for 13 years – the only president to serve more than 2 terms.
- He made many speeches on the radio, calling them “fireside chats.”
- He appointed the first woman to the cabinet.
- His wife, Eleanor, was the a powerful First Lady. She was the first to hold her own press conferences – only women journalists were allowed to attend!
- FDR loved to sail and collect stamps.
- He was related to 11 other presidents!
- FDR had a dog, Fala, who was famous.
FDR was born into a wealthy family – President Theodore Roosevelt was his cousin. He grew up in New York and followed the family tradition of attending the top schools in the country. Then he practiced law in New York City before he went into politics. He was a representative in the New York state legislature and governor of New York. In addition, he worked in the federal government.
FDR became sick with polio when he was 39 years old. He never walked on his own after that – instead he used either a cane or wheelchair. He kept his disability a secret throughout most of his presidency, however. When giving speeches, he would prop himself up by holding on to the podium.
FDR led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was known for his efforts to help the poor during the Great Depression – he called his policies “The New Deal.” He got busy right away – signing 14 bills into law during his first 100 days of office! He created programs that put people to work improving our roads and buildings, and imposed regulation on the banking system and stock market (Securities and Exchange Commission). He also provided food for the hungry and unemployed and financial aid to farmers and elderly people (Social Security). His programs helped America recover from the Great Depression.
FDR kept America out of the first few years of World War II. Instead, he provided aid to England, to help it fight Nazi Germany. He finally asked Congress to declare way after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In that famous speech, he said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see American victory in World War II. He died while on vacation in Georgia just before the War ended.
FDR and Eleanor first met when they were 2 years old – they were very distant cousins. In fact, Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave her away at their wedding. Even thought she was born into a wealthy family, her childhood wasn’t very happy. Both of Eleanor’s parents had died when before she was 10 years old and she was raised by her grandmother. She spent much of her childhood reading books.
The Roosevelts had one daughter and five sons – Franklin Jr, Anna, James, Elliot, John and Franklin Jr. (the first Franklin Jr. died as a baby). Eleanor was a very active First Lady – she traveled all over the country helping the poor, sick and elderly. She was his eyes and ears around the country, since travel was hard for FDR. She even traveled to Europe to visit American soldiers. Eleanor told FDR stories of the people she met so that he knew how much America was suffering and needed help from the government.
The more people First Lady Eleanor met, the more she wanted to help. She wrote a newspaper column and held press conferences. Eleanor also advocated for women’s rights. She even hosted a free concert by a famous African American singer, Marian Anderson (It had to be outside on the Mall, since no auditorium in Washington DC would allow her to perform).
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
“If you treat people right they will treat you right… ninety percent of the time.”
“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”
“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”
“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”