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inspiration.htm_President Franklin Roosevelt
picture of Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the USA from 1933 to 1945, and was one of the most popular presidents in American history. He had a very prolific political career, he served two terms as a senator in the New York Senate, one term as assistant secretary of the US Navy, two terms as Governor of New York from 1929 to 1932 and four terms as President of the USA. His new policies and leadership as President led America out of the Economic Depression of the 1930's and also led America to victory in world war two.

Franklin Roosevelt was a disabled person. He developed polio in 1921 at the age of 39. At the time there was no cure for polio and most sufferers had to endure a life of reduced mobility and pain. Roosevelt fought to regain his health through various medical and alternative treatments. Yet his condition did not improve much and he had to use braces to walk, a wheelchair and a specially adapted car to move around. However he did not let his disability dampen his ambition and his career. He continued his political career, and he helped reform the Democrat party in New York during the 1920's, rooting out corruption and abuses of office. He helped Al Smith win the elections for Governor of New York in 1922 and 1924. He also helped Al Smith in his campaign to win the Presidency in 1928. He was defeated by Herbert Hoover. Yet Roosevelt managed to be elected Governor of New York in 1928, in a tight race. As Governor he introduced new social programmes to help the poor and disadvantaged. He also rooted out some of the corruption in New York politics, such as the sale of judicial offices.

While Governor of New York he built up friendships and political alliances with Democrats in other states of America. He also attended conventions and meetings across the nation to build up a national support base. In 1932 he ran for President of the USA. His opponent was Herbert Hoover, the existing president who was seeking a second term in office. Roosevelt promised Americans radical new policies and reforms to get America back working again and lift it out of the Economic Depression. He travelled across the nation delivering passionate speeches about change and a new deal for the American people. One of Roosevelt's speeches went as following:

"Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth... I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people... This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms....."

Herbert Hoover whose policies had failed to lift America out of the Depression made speeches calling for more of the same failed economic policies and he also made claims that the "worst was over" and that they had turned a corner. Hoover also slandered and mocked Roosevelt calling him a radical, ignorant, generaliser, etc.. Yet is was Hoover and his policies which had created the conditions for the banking and economic crash in the economy and his failed reaction to it turned the crash into a full Economic Depression by 1932. By March 1933, unemployment had reached 24% and 2 million Americans were homeless and 32 of the 48 states had closed their banks. The American people rejected Hoover and his failed policies and elected Roosevelt by a big majority. Roosevelt became President in Spring 1933. His victory speech which included "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself......." is recognised to be one of the finest ever delivered by an American President.

Roosevelt offered the American people a New Deal and he managed to get most of his New Deal programmes approved and passed by Congress within the first year. He got laws passed to do the following:

- provide social welfare to the many millions of unemployed and homeless Americans
-reform the banking system and set up stringent rules and regulations to prevent another crash and create greater public confidence in the banking system.
- the setting up the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) to oversee share dealing
- insurance of deposits in banks
- cut public salaries in order to reduce national debt levels
- set up government public works programmes to get people back working and spending money in the economy
- artist programmes to employ unemployed artists
- rural economic renewal programmes
- repealed prohibition which had failed and led to organised crime and much political corruption in cities
- income support for farmers
- recognition of unions
- morgage relief to millions of homeowners and farmers.

These reforms were part of the New Deal and this continued for the next 12 years of Roosevelt's presidency. Later measures included the introduction of federal housing agencies to help Americans buy their own homes, the works progress administration which gave work instead of social welfare to unemployed people, crops insurance for farmers, new worker's rights to engage in collective bargaining, and the social security act which established national retirement pension, unemployment benefits and disability benefits, and a new housing body to remove slums from cities. The New Deal was financed by new government taxes on the rich and by borrowing and printing money and injecting it into the economy to stimulate spending and investment throughout the economy. These changes helped stablise the banking system, prices, wages, and individual and business capacity to repay debt, and consumer's capacity to spend money on products and services. This stablisation helped improve consumer and investor confidence, achieved economic growth, reduced unemployment and lifted America out of the Depression by the late 1930's. These were massive changes to American society, and represented a move away from the barbaric form of capitalism where individuals, families and communities (and disabled people) were left to starve by a defective and malfunctioning free market system.

The New Deal empowered workers, farmers, women, the unemployed, the disabled, and consumers and enabled them to have some influence on government, which had previously been solely dominated by big business. In the early stages of world war two, before America's entry into it, Roosevelt helped out the allied democracies through the lend lease programme. This provided them with American made arms and munitions on favourable terms. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 brought America into the war. Roosevelt and his government immediately brought in the military draft for all American men under 40, and got whole industries to stop producing consumer goods and start producing arms and munitions. This was all coordinated by federal agencies. Millions of women were encouraged to take employment in factories making arms as most of the young men had been drafted into the military. Scientists and engineers were organised into national teams to improve the arms and munitions of the military. Roosevelt worked closely with Winston Churchill and with military leaders to coordinate the efforts of allied forces. All of these measures helped secure victory for America and the allied forces in world war two. Towards the end of the war, Roosevelt supported the setting up of the United Nations which would work to prevent war throughout the world, and build peace between peoples.

Roosevelt's overcome many obstacles including polio, disability, right-wing attacks in Congress and the Senate and in the press and media, slandering of his character, setbacks in the New Deal, legal reversals of some laws, and Japanese and German aggression. Roosevelt is a good example of a disabled person overcoming adversity and living a fulfilling and independent life, and making a valuable contribution to politics, to economics, to his society and to humanity. Many of his New Deal reforms directly led to other reforms in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's which greatly improved the lives of disabled people in the USA and other countries. There is a video below which gives a clear view of Roosevelt's political philosophy.

Video of the Four Freedoms. Roosevelt is speaking.


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