Franklin D Roosevelt

The Gleaming Hope of a Darkened America

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Life Influences

Uprbringing

  • Born into a wealthy family; The Roosevelts had been prominent for several generations
  • Cousin of Teddy Roosevelt (FDR would eventually idolize him)
  • Entire household revolved around him, surrounded by privilege
  • Mother always took care of him (remained influential throughout his life)
  • Taught by tutors and governesses until the age of 14
  • Attended Groton School, a prestigious Episcopalian preparatory school
  • Did not fit in with other children, so aimed to impress adults
  • Became heavily influenced by Headmaster Endicott Peabody
  • Peabody encouraged his students to help the less fortunate through public service
  • Attended Harvard College of Law in 1900, then studied law at Columbia
  • Married Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905
  • Bored by law practice, decided to go into politics.
  • In 1918 Eleanor discovers FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer
  • Convinced to stay, but marriage becomes non-emotional committment


Political Career:

  • Became state senator in 1910
  • Supported Woodrow Wilson in his presidential campaign
  • Rewarded with role of Assistant Sec. of the Navy
  • Ran as Vice President to James M. Cox in 1920, lost to Warren G. Harding
  • VP run gave him experience to national exposure
  • Urged to run for Governor of New York in 1928, and won
  • Saw a negativity around the Republican party and saw opportunity for presidency
  • Ran and won in 1932


Presidential Career:

  • First 100 Days - instated New Deal policies with "Brain Trust"
  • "Brain Trust" - committee dedicated to creating the alphabetical economic policies (FDIC, NRA, AAA, PWA, etc.)
  • Faced criticism for large government spending and socialist ideologies
  • Economic focus - social matters covered by Eleanor, who represented White House in many social situations
  • WWII: ran for third term for sole purpose of leading a country at war (knew war was coming)
  • As Commander-In-Chief, worked with and sometimes around military advisors
  • Manipulative, liked complete control of strategies (ex: Operation Torch was his idea)
  • Became very politically involved with Winston Churchill, who initially encouraged FDR to join the war


Polio:

  • Diagnosed in 1921
  • Devastated, thought that political career was over
  • Inspired him to overcome his physical deficiencies
  • Strategy w/ press - no pictures in wheelchair or of legs
  • Reason Eleanor was spokesperson for him

"Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds."

Meaning: the only restrictions on an individual's ability to do anything are the ones they place upon themselves. FDR grew up understanding this, and refused to ever put any restrictions upon himself. This grew ever-trying as his body became deteriorated by the polio, and yet he persistently and rather stubbornly continued to change the world.

FDR in modern-day America

I believe FDR would still be a successful politician if he had been part of present-day America's political scene. However, he may not have been as influential as he had been, nor be able to sculpt his image of invincibility. The media has less respect now than it did back then, and so FDR's polio would never have been kept as a national secret. It is also highly likely that his socialist policies would not have been as well-received nor accepted. But the thing to keep in mind is that these socialist policies came from the trial and error strategy he used in the Depression-era America. It is likely he would be able to adapt his policy-making strategy to fit the current political situation as well as be able to appease the numerous political opponents and he would undoubtedly face. The best political qualities of FDR was his ability to create ideas and adapt his policies based upon what his partners as well as opponents were saying, taking that trial and error mindset to the Executive Branch.
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Political Cartoon: "But above all, try something."

Based off FDR quote, "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." This quote defines a major quality of FDR: his gung-ho attitude when it came to policies. In the cartoon, the monster of the U.S. Depression looms over a defeated and kneeling Uncle Sam, representing America's near surrender to the devastation of the Depression. FDR stands in front of them both, pointing and seemingly commanding a supply of weapons, each with their own spin of economic policy, to attack the Depression head-on. The armory behind him reads "New Deal Armory" and contains three large bombs: Relief, Recovery, and Reform, the three goals of FDR's policies.

Because me must try, Roosevelt 2016

Campaign slogan based off of his "But above all, try something" quote. FDR's best political quality was his understanding of the trial and error mindset, where when you try enough methods you will come upon a solution. This quality ended up creating programs such as the Social Security Act and the FDIC.

If I had FDR's skills.

If I were to find myself with the incredible leadership skills and political confidence of FDR, I would use it to try to stabilize the government and its ever-distant parties. FDR was big on using the ideas of both sides when creating policies, so as to simultaneously appease and go against both political parties and their agendas. This provided grounds for the parties to come closer without uniting nor compromising their values. I would lead this process to help mend the deep division between Left- and Right-Wing politicians in the U.S. I would also adopt new economic policies that would provide work for artists who struggle and remain unemployed, just as the Works Progress Administration did in Depression-era America. These policies would provide employment opportunities as well as improve on the infrastructure of many cities who suffer with both large unemployment and poor infrastructure. One example would be Detroit: a federally-funded rehabilitation project powered by the hungry labor force there would help improve the city's situation. FDR was able to see opportunities like these everywhere, a gift I would use all I could if i possessed it.

Speech: First Inaugural Address, 1933

"I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."


S - Newly-elected President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt

O - Inaugural Address, his first chance to address the nation as its new leader

A - The entire tattered and weary Great-Depression-Era America

P - To incite hope for the near future and invoke support for his big plans for the nation

S - The goal of his presidency and the start of the journey to recovery

Tone - Hopeful, ready, progressive, and ready for the future

Historiography

In a review of The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942, Thomas Mullen summarizes the analytical strategies employed by author Nigel Hamilton. He explains how President Roosevelt was able to manipulate the war to produce an outcome he desired, even when that meant having to override decisions made by his Secretary of State. One such example was Roosevelt's decision to attack the Axis powers located in North Africa, a decision that went directly against what the Department of Defense has already decided to do. Nonetheless, Roosevelt used his executive power to override this decision, leading to the start of Operation Torch. Operation Torch was a cornerstone part of Hamilton's argument for the influence and solid decision-making by Roosevelt. The historian point of view Hamilton is able to use given the time that has passed assists in his ability to clearly and effectively analyze Roosevelt's actions in wartime America. It is easy to jump to conclusions when something is happening in the present, but when one observes an event from the past, it is far easier to analyze the influences and strategy behind each political decision. Such is the case with Nigel Hamilton and FDR's decisions. It seems that he is correct with his analysis, too. FDR was very manipulative in every aspect of his presidency, though at the legislative level, his word was not final. Therefore, complete control and manipulation was not necessarily an option for him there. In military decisions, his word was final, given his status as Commander-In-Chief. FDR used this to his advantage, assuming complete control of major decisions. This manipulative style of leading was a major reason for America's success in the war.

FDR's American Experience

FDR was exactly what the United States needed during the Depression. Not only was he a living beacon of hope, but his gung-ho attitude towards everything political insured that there was never a point where the government would stop trying to recover, a strategy that epitomizes the American way. FDR lives on as one of the U.S.'s best presidents, not just because of his charisma and leadership skills, but because of his refusal to ever give up. This characteristic was exemplified by his inability to give up even when paralyzed by polio, and when faced with the worst economic crisis in United States history. This characteristic is a golden one that immortalizes FDR and all the hope and good he stood for. Many Americans can look at FDR as a man who truly represented America's spirit and way. His political prowess in a time of American desperation remains unmatched to this day. His ability to look beyond political parties and combine all ideas together serve as an example of how politics in America should work. He is a hero not only to me, but to Americans everywhere looking to better this nation.
Franklin and Winston: an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship