Franklin D. Roosevelt: An Influential Leader Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was a man of unusual charm and great optimism, which he was able to communicate to others. He had a broad smile and was a charismatic optimist whose confidence helped sustain the nation through its darkest moments during crisis like the Great Depression and World War II. He became one of the most beloved of U. S. presidents for four terms in office.
But beneath his outward friendliness was an inner reserve and an iron will. His admirers emphasized the way in which he met the nation's problems. They praised him for insisting that the federal government must help the underprivileged and that the United States must share in the responsibility for preserving world peace. Franklin Roosevelt made a profound and very important impact upon his times and his policies exerted great influence on the future (Freidel). Assuming the Presidency in 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression, Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves.
He brought hope to the people when he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself' (The White House). FDR's first one hundred days in office were known as 'The Hundred Days' (The Great Depression). The main drive of Roosevelt's administration was toward a balance of economic interests. He believed that he should represent all the people -- farmers, laborers, and white-collar workers as well as businessmen (The Great Depression). With this in mind, he presented a wide variety of legislation to Congress, which brought relief to the needy and helped improve the economy. This legislation gave authorization to a sweeping program that was designed to bring reform, recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms or homes.
'The Hundred Days's et a new standard for Presidents and members of Congress that followed Roosevelt (The Great Depression). The first order of business for FDR tackled was the banking crisis. Since the start of the Depression, Americans had lost their life's savings. Roosevelt recognized that if he kept the banks open, panicked depositors would withdraw their money and more banks would fail.
FDR declared a "bank holiday" during which time a hastily prepared emergency banking bill gave the Secretary of the Treasury the power to investigate all banks and then reopen those strong enough to survive (Boorstin 624). As the number of radios grew in the U. S. , more people relied on this media for obtaining information and entertainment. During the Great Depression, when disappointment in the economy reached its peak, FDR resorted to speeches on the radio. These became known as "Fireside Chats" (Boorstin 624) during which FDR talked about the banking system and other economic concerns.
In these chats, he could describe his actions and his reasoning so that everyone would understand what the government was doing (The Great Depression). The New Deal was a program designed to reverse the effects of the Depression. Some of the successful programs that it encompassed were ones such as the following: 1. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which provided jobs for single men between the ages of 18 and 25 and earned $1. 00 each day. 2.
The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which helped farmers by paying them not to produce crops; thereby, keeping their income from dropping by overproducing certain crops. Since less was being grown, the price for farm goods would rise. The government said that they would also pay farmers to plow some crops under and destroy some of the surplus. 3. So that more people could have jobs during the Depression, the WPA made jobs for people to work in buildings, hospitals, and parks. It also hired artists and photographers.
4. The FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, insured savings accounts in banks approved by the government, which would be repay the depositors their money in the event that the bank failed (The Great Depression). By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but some businessmen and bankers disapproved of his experiments, his concessions to labor and the creation of a budget deficit. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an huge work relief program for the unemployed (The White House). During the Hundred Days, Congress passed more than a dozen significant pieces of reform and relief legislation. But the Hundred Days would become an American political legend, and would be used even decades later as the yardstick by which to measure a new president.
None who took the office would achieve the early and impressive legislative success of Franklin Roosevelt's Hundred Days (American Experience). Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the 'good neighbor' policy by declaring, "no state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another" (Boorstin 659). He also sought through neutrality legislation to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time to fortify nations threatened or attacked (The White House). In early 1939, Roosevelt asked Congress to repeal the Neutrality Act, which forbade the export of arms, ammunition or implements of war to aggressive nations so the U. S. could sell arms to the free European forces and eventually Congress agreed (Boorstin 660).
Publicly, Roosevelt promised that America would not fight unless attacked, but privately, he prepared America for battle. He radically increased the defense budget from 1939 on and began to convert America to a military economy. Meanwhile, Roosevelt built up his Army. He oversaw the conversion of the United States into the biggest munitions producer the world had ever known.
He also pushed a draft bill through Congress so America could bring men to battle when it was in need of them. (American Experience). When France fell to the Nazis in May 1940, Britain stood alone. Roosevelt began a remarkable secret correspondence with Britain's prime minister, Winston Churchill, to give them as much aid as possible (web). After Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, America declared war against the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan). FDR oversaw the invasion of Europe and the bloody battles against the Japanese in the Pacific islands.
He led America to a victory over the Nazis and authorized the building of the world's first atomic bombs; very destructive weapons that his successor, Harry Truman, would use to finally defeat Japan (American Experience). Franklin D. Roosevelt, assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, instilled in a tired and beaten nation the hope it needed to revive itself by delivering prompt and vigorous action. Roosevelt held office during two of the greatest crises ever faced by the United States: the Great Depression of the 1930 s, followed by World War II. His domestic program, known as the New Deal, introduced far-reaching reforms within the free enterprise system and gave people a new perspective on government. FDR rallied the country after the near disaster of Pearl Harbor, mobilizing over ten million troops.
His military and diplomatic skill as the Commander in Chief during World War II, won him an award in the hearts of many Americans. Both in peacetime and in war, his impact on the office of president was enormous, making him one of the most influential leaders in US history. BIBLIOGRAPHY American Experience: The Presidents. September 7, 2004, Boorstin, D. J. , Kelley, B.
M. , and Boorstin, R. F. , A History of the United States. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2003. 624, 659-60.
Freidel, Frank. "Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal." The New Book of Knowledge. 2004 ed. September 7, 2004, The Great Depression: FDR and the Depression. September 7, 2004, The White House. September 7, 2004,.