The Dust Bowl, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Bank Crisis of 1932, and the Great Depression: were prominent matters at the forefront of one of America’s lowest points. They now remain recorded as devastating key issues in American history, recovery from which was thought improbable. However, immortalized alongside these impossible odds is the man who was able to overcome them: the 32nd President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He had lived through the glamorous Roaring Twenties, the garishness of which had ironically brought upon the nation’s economic decline, and stepped up to lead in the hard times that followed. Brandishing his New Deal Program, among numerous other economic and social repair plans, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was able to direct America on the path to overcoming its Great Depression and is the reason one of the world’s greatest nations still stands today.
Two members of the Roosevelt family were to become president of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the 26th president from 1901 to 1909 and his distant cousin Franklin Delano (1882-1945) was the 32nd president from 1933 until his death. Theodore was also the uncle of Franklin’s wife Anne Eleanor (1884-1962), who was also a Roosevelt.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on a cold Winter night, one followed by an intense snowstorm. His mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt had begun labor in the chilly morning, and her doctor, Edward H. Parker, expected the 27-year-old to have the child delivered within a few hours. But everything about FDR, as time would show, defied expectations. Quiet whispers were exchanged expressing fears of having to bury the mother and child until 8:45 PM when FDR was finally born. His suspenseful birth was a prelude to the crisis and strife he would need to face later in life.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt underwent numerous political and physical difficulties that all contributed to his declining health and eventual death. When Roosevelt was elected in 1933 as President of the United States, America was undergoing a tragic period known as the Great Depression. During this period in time, poverty was pervasive and the unemployment rate was skyrocketing. Roosevelt stepped in and enacted his New Deal policy, which greatly assisted America as a nation to recover from its economic depression. Another defining event that took place during Roosevelt’s presidency was his reelection in 1944 for his fourth term. He campaigned against and defeated Thomas E. Dewey. By performing such a large amount of presidential and campaign duties that were all of such extreme importance, Roosevelt endured much pressure and stress that eventually resulted in a decline in health. Franklin D. Roosevelt not only engaged in his numerous presidential duties, but his position required him to participate in global affairs as well. Everyone remembers the famous speech and many can still hear the resounding echoes of Roosevelt’s famous words after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, “December 7, 1941– a date which will live in infamy!” Roosevelt became the protector of America and one of the most important leaders of the Allies as America became involved in World War II. In the twelve stressful years that Roosevelt served as president, he courageously and strategically took on two momentous events in American history, the Great Depression and World War II, as well as other political circumstances. In addition to these events, another global affair added even more amounts of stress as “the Yalta Conference the following February put the President under immense strain” (Leuchtenburg). The Yalta Conference consisted of the heads of government of America, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom meeting to discuss the handling of the aftermath of World War II, which included the organization of postwar Europe. The taxing toll of these political undertakings collectively contributed to the tremendous strain on President Roosevelt. Because of these circumstances, many speculated concerns as to whether or not the mounting pressure attributed to any of Roosevelt’s physical ailments. Along with the strain from presidential duties, doctors discovered that multiple heart diseases, bronchitis, and high blood pressure were affecting Roosevelt’s physical health. According to William E. Leuchtenburg, “Those close to the President—and even those who saw him speak in public—noted his haggard and weak appearance, his flagging energy, and his increasing lapses of concentration and memory.” However, Roosevelt persevered through these ailments and continued his duties as vehemently as he had before. Unfortunately, the strains of political duties, roles in national and global affairs, and physical ailments all ultimately culminated in the death of the beloved president on April 12, 1945.
Following in his cousin’s footsteps, FDR entered the political scene in 1910, running for the New York State Senate. He was to campaign in the senate district containing Columbia, Putnam, and Dutchess County. To reach all his potential supporters, FDR used a groundbreaking strategy for the time: he campaigned by car. This allowed FDR a wide reach, and combined with tips from fellow politician Richard E. Connell, FDR won the vote, and is, to this day, one of the only Democrats to have been elected in that district. Continuing on his political climb, FDR was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson at age 30.