Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was the thirty-second President of the United States. Elected to four terms in office, he served from 1933 to 1945, and is the only U.S. president to have served more than two terms of office. He was a central figure of the 20th century during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Roosevelt created the New Deal to provide relief for the unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the economic and banking systems. Although recovery of the economy was incomplete until almost 1940, many programs initiated in the Roosevelt administration continue to have instrumental roles in the nation’s commerce, such as the FDIC, TVA, and the SEC. One of his most important legacies is the Social Security system.
Roosevelt won four presidential elections in a row, causing a realignment that political scientists call the Fifth Party System. His aggressive use of an active federal government re-energized the Democratic Party, creating a New Deal Coalition which dominated American politics until the late 1960s. He and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, remain touchstones for modern American liberalism. Conservatives vehemently fought back, but Roosevelt usually prevailed until he tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937. Thereafter, the new Conservative coalition successfully ended New Deal expansion; during the war it closed most relief programs like the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, arguing that unemployment had disappeared.
After 1938, Roosevelt championed re-armament and led the nation away from isolationism as the world headed into World War II. He provided extensive support to Winston Churchill and the British war effort before the attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the U.S. into the fighting. During the war, Roosevelt, working closely with his aide Harry Hopkins, provided decisive leadership against Nazi Germany and made the United States the principal arms supplier and financier of the Allies who later, alongside the United States, defeated Germany, Italy and Japan. Roosevelt led the United States as it became the Arsenal of Democracy, putting 16 million American men into uniform.
On the homefront his term saw the vast expansion of industry, the achievement of full employment, restoration of prosperity and new opportunities opened for African-Americans and women. Also with his term came new taxes that affected all income groups, price controls and rationing, and relocation camps for 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans as well as thousands of Italian and German-Americans. As the Allies neared victory, Roosevelt played a critical role in shaping the post-war world, particularly through the Yalta Conference and the creation of the United Nations. Roosevelt’s administration redefined liberalism for subsequent generations and realigned the Democratic Party based on his New Deal coalition of labor unions; farmers; ethnic, religious and racial minorities; intellectuals; the South; big city machines; and the poor and workers on relief.
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