Inspiring Purpose

F. D. Roosevelt

Franklin D Roosevelt was US President during World War II. The quotation at the top of the page is from his speech to Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

A distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, he was born into a wealthy family in Hyde Park, New York, and educated in Europe and at Harvard and Columbia Law schools. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1907 and successively served as a state senator (1910-13) and as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913-20), before becoming the Democratic nominee for the vice-presidency in 1920. Stricken by polio and paralysed (1921-23), he was nonetheless elected Governor of New York (1928-32). He defeated Herbert Hoover in the presidential election of 1932, in which the repeal of prohibition was a decisive issue. At once he was faced with a serious economic crisis, the Great Depression of 1933; he met this by launching his innovative New Deal programme, which involved abandonment of the gold standard, devaluation of the dollar, state intervention in the credit market, agricultural price support, and the passage of a Social Security Act (1935) which provided for unemployment and old age insurance. On the strength of his success in these reforms, Roosevelt was elected by a landslide in 1936 and secured a third term in 1940 and a fourth in 1944.

Roosevelt inculcated a new spirit of hope through his skilful and optimistic radio 'fireside chats', and constructed a new rural-urban 'majority coalition' for the Democratic Party. He also served significantly to extend the reach of the 'presidential sector'. During the late 1930s he endeavoured to avoid involvement in a European conflict, but on the outbreak of World War II he modified the USA's neutrality in favour of the Allies (for example, by the Lend-Lease plan); eventually the country was brought fully into the conflict by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour (December 1941). A conference with Churchill at sea produced the 'Atlantic Charter', a statement of peace aims; and there were other notable meetings with Churchill and Stalin at Teheran (1943) and Yalta (1945). He died three weeks before the Nazi surrender.

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Inspiring Purpose is a program developed by Character Education Scotland
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