A comparison between the inaugural addresses of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt reveals the impact of the Great Depression in creating widespread devastation and anxiety within the United States.
Hoover's inaugural address was given in March 1929. His speech paints a largely optimistic picture of the country, as he praises the United States on its continuing progress after World War I. Indeed, when speaking about those challenges that the country still must overcome, his focus is primarily on the subject of crime (a viewpoint influenced by the repercussions of Prohibition). At the same time, he also shares his support for the continued advancement toward world peace. Taken as a whole, he views the country as currently engaged in an upward trajectory toward further progress, one it must continue to chart into the future.
Roosevelt, on the other hand, was elected in the context of the Great Depression, and, in his first inaugural address, he recognizes the very real fear and anxiety the Depression produced—an anxiety that is, at the very least, alluded to in his words: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." At the same time, he also recognizes the very real economic turmoil unleashed by the Depression:
Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
Even so, it must be noted that Roosevelt is not cynical; he is actually adamant that the United States can address these challenges and that a recovery can be attained. However, Roosevelt's speech illustrates the degree to which the idealistic optimism reflected in Hoover's inaugural address was no longer tenable given the realities of the Depression.