Franklin D. Roosevelt

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The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself Meaning

What does the phrase: "There's nothing to fear, except fear itself" mean?

How do you feel about the idea of fear? and how do think the phrase  "There's nothing to fear, except fear itself" mean? relates to the idea of fear?

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jseligmann eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The quote is from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural address from 1933. Here is the whole quote:

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.

And yes, the historical context is the great depression. Roosevelt was warning against the kind of fear that paralyzes the population and prevents individuals from making positive steps to extricate themselves from a bad situation. What was saying is: Go out and spend some money... go to a movie, buy some ice cream, give a friend a job, help your neighbor. Don't let fear force you to cower in the corner doing nothing; this will not help you or the economy.

Now, of course, there are times when fear can be a reasonable response to a situation and hiding oneself away can be an act of survival, but an economic depression, according to Roosevelt, is not such a time.

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Fear is a...

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