Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography

Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

From the 1933 inaugural address of Roosevelt, "This great nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D Roosevelt was the longest serving US President who got elected to the office for an unprecedented four terms. FDR, as he was popularly known, hailed his country out of the 'Great Economic Depression' of the 1930s and ably led the United States and the Allied Powers in the Second World War. Roosevelt was born as Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882 and studied in the Groton School, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard and later joined the Columbia University School of Law. On 17 March, 1905, Roosevelt married Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of former President Theodore Roosevelt, his distant relative.

Roosevelt's admiration for his cousin Theodore Roosevelt drew his attention towards politics. In 1910, he was elected to the New York Senate and he actively supported Woodrow Wilson in his presidential campaign. He was made the assistant secretary of navy in 1913. Unfortunately he was stricken by poliomyelitis while on vacation at New Brunswick but still he continued with his political activities. He was a staunch Democrat and in 1928, he was elected governor of New York. After his reelection in 1930, he was considered the most likely Democratic candidate for the 1932 presidential elections.

The United States was facing a severe economic depression at this time and the Depression became the major theme of campaign. By offering a new method of economic management and reforms coupled with welfare measures, called the New Deal, Roosevelt won the 1932 elections. Immediately after his inauguration, Roosevelt embarked on a scheme of economic reforms; and adopted bipartisan measures by including Republican members in his cabinet. He focused on banking reforms and instituted a number of agencies like Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), and the Public Works Administration (PWA).

Roosevelt also introduced the concept of 'managed currency', driving down the gold content of the dollar. He also imposed levies on people with large incomes and on big corporations which went on to become a very significant factor in redistributing US income. Roosevelt won the 1936 elections defeating Gov. Alfred Mossman Landon with an overwhelming majority. During the period, he had a running feud with the Supreme Court regarding some of his New Deal initiatives. However, many innovations introduced by Roosevelt like social security, agricultural programme, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TGA) became accepted as permanent functions of the federal government.

The world was in turmoil at this time due to the ambitious policies of Hitler and another world war was in the offing. Roosevelt persuaded the congress to aid and support the UK in the war. In 1940, Roosevelt was elected for his third presidential term, defeating Wendell I Willkie. In 1941, Roosevelt got the 'Lend Lease Act' to finance aid to the UK and its allies. Still, he steadfastly maintained the policy of no-entry into the war. Meanwhile the American differences with the Japanese policies in the Pacific reached a point of no return. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese war planes bombed the American base in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, destroying ships and killing thousands of American soldiers. Within a day, on December 8, the Congress voted a war resolution against Japan. New Deal policies were put in the back burner as Roosevelt prepared America for the war.

Roosevelt created the War Production Board in January 1942 and the Office of War Mobilization in 1943. The Revenue Act of 1942 increased the American tax base, further augmenting the war efforts. To ensure sufficient manpower, Roosevelt decided to integrate the labour force to utilize the black population by passing Executive Order 8802, prohibiting racial discrimination in job training and defence projects. Roosevelt effectively co-ordinated with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Russian leader Joseph Stalin.

In Casablanca, Morocco, in January 1943 Roosevelt after a meeting with Churchill and Stalin announced the doctrine of unconditional surrender of the axis powers. Roosevelt was determined to avoid any sort of misunderstanding among the allies in this regard creating a situation equivalent to the troubled armistice of 1918, after the First World War. Anticipating the dominant role that the Soviet Union might play in the postwar Europe, Roosevelt tried to gain the confidence of Stalin and nurture a good relation with him. He actively aided the beleagured Soviet army with lend-lease supplies though he failed in getting much in return.

As the Allied powers were making steady progress in Europe, the Big Three (Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill) met at Yalta in February 1945 and Roosevelt wanted Russian help in invading Japan for which Stalin was not really forthcoming. Meanwhile Roosevelt had secured his fourth consecutive presidential term in the 1944 elections defeating Thomas E Dewey.

Roosevelt's health has been declining and in spite of it he worked tirelessly for the establishment of the United Nations, an international organization which he believed would prevent future wars. To draft a charter for the UN, a conference was scheduled in San Francisco from 25 April 1945, which
Roosevelt planned to attend. However, that was not to be. On April 12, 1945 he suffered from a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died at Warm Springs, Georgia. Thus the United States lost one of its most charismatic and capable modern leaders who stewarded the country effectively and successfully during the turbulent times of the Great Depression and the Second World War.