"Rugged individualism" is a phrase used by President Herbert Hoover to explain his idea that individual effort, rather than government intervention, would help people. He used this phrase during the penultimate speech of his presidential campaign in 1928 to convey his belief that Americans should rely on themselves rather than the government. After the Great Depression began in 1929, he started the largest public works project in the country up until that time to put people back to work, but it was not extensive enough to help most Americans. He continued to put his faith in volunteers and private organizations, rather than in the government, to help jobless Americans during the Great Depression.
It could be argued that during the Great Depression, only the New Deal could really help the U.S. economy get on track again. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal helped provide relief to a broad group of Americans, it helped the economy recover (to some degree), and it helped reform the economy to prevent depressions of that magnitude from reoccurring. Roosevelt started an "alphabet soup" of federal agencies, such as the NRA (National Recovery Administration), CWA (Civil Works Administration), and others to provide the relief that Americans needed and to give them hope in a desperate time. However, only the defense industry related to the outbreak of World War II pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression by about 1940.