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The previous posts gave some very strong answers. I would suggest that one of FDR's greatest accomplishments was proving how important the role of President can be under specific conditions. I think that if one created a list of Presidents who had to face some of the most severe and difficult conditions, FDR's name would be on the short list. The economic depression which crippled America was one set of conditions, while another was that no foreign nation could be turned to for help. Add to this the rise of European Fascism and its threat to democracies all over the world and that few Americans felt confident about their world and their place in it, and one realizes the FDR had to face some difficult challenges. Within all of this, FDR's major accomplishment was to instill a sense of worth within the American individual. Whether it was through Fireside Chats or the idea that he, someone who came from wealth and privilege, could identify with the "average Joe," FDR was able to use his power as President to make Americans believe in someting other than their own helplessness. Presidents since FDR have understood the power and need to identify with their citizens in order to underscore their own political viability.
Basically, FDR did two things. First, he helped reduce the impact of the Great Depression. Second, he led the US during most of World War II. This means that he was president during two of the biggest crises in US history.
People often say that FDR ended the Depression with the New Deal. Most historians do not agree with this. They say that the coming of WWII ended the Depression. However, FDR's policies and his personal abilities clearly helped to stabilize the economy after 1933 and prevent it from getting worse.
Before and during WWII, FDR forged an alliance with Great Britain and (less so) with the USSR. He skillfully managed this alliance during the war and he was in overall charge of the war effort. his work clearly helped the Allies to win the war.
- He cleaned up Wall Street's abuses with the SEC, created jobs through the TVA, WPA and other public worls projects, provided an old age security network, aided in ending the depression and brought the US through WWII. He stole the peoples gold his first week in office. He closed the banks. He started the world's largest chain letter (Social Security). He devalued the dollar. He prolonged the depression.
- His single greatest accomplishment was nothing that can be measured by an analysis of his policies. What FDR did was restore American confidence and create sense of optimism in the midst of the Depression. He always sounded hopeful that things would get better and did his best to try and explain what he was doing to try and fix the problem through his fire-side chats over the radio. In doing this, many in America had great confidence in FDR and were highly supportive of him, which is partially why he remains one of the most popular presidents in American history.
In terms of policy success, his greatest real accomplishment was providing regulations for what business could do. The Great Depression was the result of several factors, including bad credit and greed on the part of banks. When the stock-market crashed in 1929, the financial policies that came out of the seeming blooming of the 20s were proved to be faulty, and FDR made sure that their mistakes could not be repeated. As a result, the US economy until 2008 after 8 years of Reagan, 4 years of HW Bush, and 8 years of W Bush (all of whom worked to undo FDR's policies) never suffered an economic crisis on the same scale as the Great Depression.
Other things like Tennessee Valley Authority, which brought electric power to the Appalachian Mountains and the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put people to work without drafting them into the military are also among his top accomplishments as President.
And in terms of foreign policy, his greatest accomplishment was being able to eventually rally America to the allied cause against both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Lend-Lease Act was FDR's main idea to supply Britain and other allied nations with the equipment needed to keep fighting. He was not, however, able to get America to actually take a firm stand against Japanese or Nazi aggression until after Dec 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war on America a few days later.
-i just copy-paste the answer... :)
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