Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” He was the first president to have his mother eligible to vote for him. He enjoyed snacking on fruit cake and eating pancakes, fish, cabbage, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. He is Franklin Delano Roosevelt a/k/a FDR, 32nd President of the United States of America, serving from March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945. Franklin was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York and was an only child. Due to his mother, he spent the first five years of his life wearing dresses! He lived a prestigious life, visiting Europe every year and being educated by tutors and governesses until the age of 14, when he began attending a prestigious school in Massachusetts. After graduating from high school and attended college at Harvard before going to Columbia University Law School. While attending college, his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt was elected President. Although Franklin supported Theodore’s opponent, he admired Theodore’s leadership style. Franklin married his wife, Eleanor, On March 17, 1905, over the protests of his mother, who was a dominate figure in his life. Despite having six children together, five of which survived into adulthood, Franklin and Eleanor’s marriage was not a happy one. Franklin had several affairs and once considered divorce. His marriage to Eleanor became a political partnership.

In 1910, Franklin became involved in politics by heavily campaigning and winning a state senate seat as a Democrat in a predominately Republican district. After the 1912 elections, Franklin was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy for his support during the election, following in the footsteps of Theodore, whom he revered. Franklin was defeated in his campaign for the US Senate and in the presidential election of 1920, as the vice-presidential candidate.


In August of 1921, Franklin was vacationing in Canada when he contracted polio, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down, although he refused to accept that diagnoses and eventually learned to stand with the help of braces and learned to walk short distances by swiveling his torso and using a cane. Franklin concealed his disability as much as possible from the public, and using tricks to convince people that he was improving. Recent research suggests that Franklins paralysis could have been due to an autoimmune disorder rather than polio.


In 1928, Franklin ran for governor of New York and won narrowly, again following the footsteps of Theodore. Franklin, as a firm believer of a progressive government, instituted several new social programs as the nation began to enter the Great Depression. It was on this platform, that government must intervene to provide relief, recovery, and reform, that Franklin ran his 1932 presidential campaign. He defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover in November of 1932.


Shortly before Franklin took office in March of 1933, he escaped an assassination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara, who expressed hatred for all rulers. When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in March of 1933, 13 million American were unemployed, hundreds of banks were closed, food prices had drastically dropped, farmers were in deep trouble, and two million people were homeless.


Within the first 100 days of his presidency, Franklin proposed sweeping economic reform, now known as the “New Deal.” He heavily relied on trusted economic advisors and created several agencies to assist in regulation. He kept the public informed of his actions through his Fireside Chats delivered via radio. By 1936, the economy was showing signs of improvement, however, some accused Franklin’s programs of pushing the country towards socialism, and some of his programs were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. He also faced criticism for rising government costs.


While the economic recovery dominated the first part of his presidency, affairs began to worsen overseas. Since the end of World War I years earlier, the United States had adopted a “hands off” policy with foreign affairs. With the growing threat of Nazi Germany against Europe and Japan against China, Franklin began to publicly support the nation’s allies.


In 1940, Franklin chose to run for an unprecedented third term as President of the United States. He believed hat his leadership and experience was necessary for what was to come. He received the nomination, campaigned on his leadership experience and his promise to do everything possible to stay out of the war and went on to defeat his opponent, Wendell Wilkie.


In his third term, Franklin’s focus shifted from domestic issues, to international issues. In 1941, Franklin agreed to extend the Lend-Lease with the Soviets. After an American destroyer was targeted by German submarines, the US Navy began taking a more active role by acting as escorts for supplies ships. They also adopted a “shoot on sight” policy against German ships and submarines. Throughout 1941, Franklin spoke frequently with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the nations began formulating military plans for if the United States entered the war.


On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Air Force launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing 2,403 military members and civilians and destroying several battleships. This attack thrust the United States into World War II, which dominated the remainder of his presidency. During the war, Franklin also looked to the future and assisted in the formation of the United Nations.


In 1944, Franklin’s health was beginning to decline, although he ran for an unprecedented fourth term in office, as the United States was deeply embedded in war. Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman was selected as his running mate. The two defeated the Republican candidate and carried 36 of 48 states.


On April 12, 1945, Franklin died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage (a stroke). Moments before collapsing, Franklin said, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head.” He died hours later. His sudden death was a shock to the nation. VIce-President Harry Truman succeeded him and less than one month after his death, at the end of the war, Truman stated that he wished “Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.”


Happy Birthday Mr. President!


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