Franklin Roosevelt used the power of the federal government to relieve the suffering caused by the Great Depression.
David McCullough: Then, on May 27, 1935, a day New Dealers would remember as Black Monday, the Supreme Court struck at the very heart of Roosevelt's hope to stimulate the economy. They declared the NRA -- the National Recovery Act -- unconstitutional, and it was just the first blow. The court was moving against Roosevelt's efforts to abolish child labor, establish a minimum wage, boost farm prices. Law by law, the court would attempt to dismantle the work of the first 100 days. But with millions still unemployed, Roosevelt continued to use the power of the federal government to relieve the suffering caused by the Great Depression.
William Leuchtenburg: Congress, at Roosevelt's request, enacts the Emergency Work Relief Appropriations Act, which is the largest single peacetime appropriation in this history of this country or any country in the history of the world.
Newsreel Announcer: New York City -- federal jobs for thousands at the rate of a hundred a minute, while all over the nation, Works Progress administrators are hurrying to transfer millions of idle from relief rolls to work payrolls.
Dispatcher: One thirty-eight Greene Street, New York, tomorrow morning 9 o'clock. Municipal Building, Borough Hall, Brooklyn tomorrow morning, 9 o'clock.
David McCullough: Five billion dollars went to the Works Progress Administration, the WPA. Men and women hired by the government worked on more than 5,000 schools, 2,500 hospitals, 1,000 landing fields, 13,000 playgrounds. Even artists went to work for the WPA.
But for Roosevelt this was just the beginning. He would bring power to rural America where nine out of every 10 families still lived without electricity. For millions of Americans -- impoverished children, the unemployed, the elderly with no savings, the disabled -- he offered the Social Security Act. He sold it as an insurance policy for everyone, but the poor, Roosevelt was saying, had rights, too.
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?