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Franklin Roosevelt: Biography, Quotes & Presidency

Instructor: Amy Lively

Amy has an M.A. in American History. She has taught history at all levels, from university to middle school.

This lesson discusses the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Learn more about FDR's life and presidency, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
roosevelt

Roosevelt's Early Years

Franklin Roosevelt's childhood was quite different from that of most American boys. He was born into a world of wealth and privilege in Hyde Park, New York, on January 30, 1882.

After completing his education at the prestigious Groton School, Roosevelt earned a degree in history from Harvard in 1903, followed by law school at Columbia University, passing the bar exam in 1907. Two years later, he married Eleanor, the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.

His Political Career Begins

Roosevelt never had much passion for law and quickly became bored with being a lawyer. In 1910, he ran for a seat in the New York State Senate, campaigning on the promise to stand up to Tammany Hall, a corrupt political organization that controlled New York City politics. He won the election and represented the state's 26th District until President Woodrow Wilson asked him to be Secretary of the Navy in 1913. FDR loved his job and life in Washington, D.C. When he learned that he was the Democratic Party's candidate for vice president in 1920, he campaigned with energy and enthusiasm. Losing the election did not discourage him, although he experienced a serious setback in 1921. Either polio or Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that attacks the nervous system, left FDR's legs paralyzed, but it did not stop him from becoming governor of New York in 1928.

His Presidency and the Great Depression

The United States was sinking deeper and deeper into a financial crisis in 1932, and the worse the economy got, the more Americans criticized President Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt ran for president against Hoover that year and said that nobody should be allowed to starve on the streets of the United States. He vowed to help those in need, which was a very unusual promise to make. Americans did not view the government that way, and even many who needed help did not want 'charity.'

Still, after Roosevelt was elected as the 32nd President of the United States, he instituted the New Deal, a series of plans to provide financial assistance, stop bank closures, and create new jobs. Some of those programs, such as the Social Security Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission, still exist. However, it took World War II to stop the Great Depression.

His Presidency and World War II

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. In February 1942, Roosevelt responded to unfounded concerns about Japanese spies by signing Executive Order 9066 which sent thousands of Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

He was not very involved in strategic decisions about fighting Japan, but he and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, partnered on the strategy for defeating Germany. That included the plan for an invasion of Europe at Normandy, France. The attack on June 6, 1944, is known as D-Day, and despite thousands of Allied deaths, it liberated northern France.

By the time the Battle of the Bulge began in December, Roosevelt was very ill from congestive heart failure. He died on April 11, 1945, just weeks after beginning his fourth term. He did not live to see Germany surrender in May and Japan surrender in September.

Quotes

Franklin Roosevelt is famous for the following noteworthy quotes:

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