Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected by a huge majority in 1932, winning all but six states. The wealthy Democratic governor from New York was a charismatic speaker, able to rally the public to his cause. His political abilities allowed him to be elected for four terms, an unprecedented event. Although he had been struck by polio as an adult, Roosevelt refused to give up his political career. The press corps worked with him to present the image of a president sound in both mind and body, minimizing his paralysis, to the extent that most of the public was not aware of it at the time.
From the nationwide broadcast of his inaugural address — the first time a president did not just address the dignitaries present — Roosevelt made it clear that he was a president for the people. He began, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. . . . “
Roosevelt converted retreat into advance through his New Deal programs, addressing poverty, unemployment, and the floundering economy. Through his reforms, Roosevelt created a new kind of presidency, more powerful and more intimate than that of his predecessors. Congress allowed him free reign, giving him executive power to put through his reforms without a quibble during the first 100 days of his presidency. Yet a man at the time observes, “My mother looks upon the president as someone so immediately concerned with her problems and difficulties that she would not be greatly surprised were he to come to her house some evening and stay for dinner.”
With the passage of programs like the Social Security Act, Roosevelt made sure that the federal government would be connected to the people for a long time to come. With his death in 1945, Americans mourned the passing of a President and a friend.
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