Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography

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Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) uttered the words “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” to reassure Americans in the midst of the Great Depression. Born into a wealthy New York family in 1882, Roosevelt entered politics early in his life, becoming a senator by age 28, then governor of New York, and finally president in 1932. A victim of polio and confined to a wheelchair, a fact many Americans never knew, Roosevelt became president at the depth of the Great Depression and strove to rescue the country from economic disaster. Working tirelessly, FDR revived the economy with his “New Deal” and simultaneously prepared the country for World War II. FDR died in office as the only man to be elected to four terms as president.

Facts and Trivia

  • Roosevelt’s cousin Theodore had also served as president. He inspired FDR to enter public service.
  • FDR’s “New Deal” program dramatically enlarged the federal government’s power and responsibility, creating our modern welfare and social security programs.
  • Roosevelt is considered by many to be the “father” of the modern Democratic Party. The Democrats had been the conservative party prior to FDR, but his sweeping liberal reforms made the Democratic Party into the champion of the underprivileged in America.
  • FDR married Eleanor Roosevelt in March of 1905. She was his fifth cousin, once removed, and they had known each other on and off since childhood.
  • Prior to U.S. involvement in World War II, FDR created the “Lend Lease” program in order to provide England with equipment to fight the Germans. Though America sought to stay out of a European war, Roosevelt’s planning helped the United States prepare for a war he knew the country could not long avoid.

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(History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Displaying extraordinary personal courage and perhaps the most astute political leadership America has ever witnessed, Roosevelt dominated American government for a longer period than has any other president of the United States.

Early Life

Born in Hyde Park, New York, on January 30, 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a member of an American aristocratic family of great wealth. James and Sara Roosevelt, of Dutch and English ancestry, educated their only child with private tutors and European tours. At Groton School in Massachusetts, Roosevelt came under the influence of Rector Endicott Peabody, who prided himself on grooming future politicians and instilling in his charges a lifelong commitment to public service.

By 1900, when Franklin enrolled at Harvard University, he was an impressive young man—six feet two inches tall, handsome, with a patrician nose and majestically deep-set eyes. In his junior year, he fell in love with his fifth cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, a tall, slender woman whose pleasing face was punctuated by a prominent set of Rooseveltian teeth. Eleanor was the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt’s younger brother, Elliott, who died from alcoholism when she was ten. In 1905, Franklin married Eleanor, over the objections of his mother, who tried to postpone the wedding.

Following Harvard, Roosevelt dabbled briefly with the practice of law before turning to the real love of his life: politics. In 1910, he entered the political arena for the first time, running for the New York State Senate. Fellow Democrats skeptically observed his entrance into the race for several reasons: his aristocratic bearing, his tendency to look down his nose at people, his unfamiliarity with working-class voters in the Hyde Park-Poughkeepsie area, and the fact that he was a former Republican. The political climate, however, demanded a reformer, and Roosevelt, following in the footsteps of his cousin Theodore, could fill the bill by pointing to the ugly specter of corruption within the opposition party. During the campaign, FDR (as he came to be known) showed he was different from the average “cheap-talking” politician, displaying a pragmatic unorthodoxy that later...

(The entire section is 3,248 words.)