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Franklin D. Roosevelt

32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt is arguably remembered as one of the most successful in American history. Taking residence in the White House during the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal policies helped restore America’s economy and national pride, which was also strengthened by American involvement in World War II. His four terms in office will forever remain one of the most important periods in American history.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30th, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York to James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. His early life was spent at home, where his parents and private tutors educated him. Young Franklin did not actually attend school until he reached the age of fourteen.

When Roosevelt did move out of the home and into the classroom, his natural academic ability brought him great success. Between 1896 and 1900 he attended preparatory school in Massachusetts before earning a place at Harvard, where it took him just three years to complete a history degree. Following graduation, he decided to study law at Columbia University.

It was in 1905, while he was attending Columbia, that he married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin and niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Their first child, Anna, was born the following year. Four boys, James (1907), Elliot (1910), Franklin Jr. (1914) and John (1916), followed, along with another child that did not survive infancy.

Roosevelt left Columbia without a degree after passing the bar examinations in 1907. He then worked for a New York law firm until his political career took off in 1910. He was elected to the Senate as New York’s Democratic candidate and won re-election in 1912.

As a reward for supporting President Woodrow Wilson in his bid for the highest office, he was appointed to Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913. He held that position until his nomination as Vice-President in 1920. However, the Republican Party won the election and Roosevelt was forced to leave politics temporarily.

Roosevelt’s political battles were nothing compared to the one he fought in the summer of 1921. At the age of 39, Roosevelt contracted polio and suffered paralysis in his legs. Although he never fully regained use of them, he did not let it hinder him and eventually funded research into an effective vaccination against polio.

Roosevelt soon resumed his political career, appearing at the Democratic National Convention in 1924 to nominate Alfred E. Smith for presidential candidate. Four years later, Smith repaid the favour by arranging for Roosevelt’s nomination to run for Governor of New York. Needless to say, Roosevelt was elected.

In 1930, Roosevelt began to prepare for the 1932 presidential election. He based his political agenda on offering a solution to the Great Depression. Upon his election in 1932, he began to motivate Americans and regain a measure of economic stability for the country.

During the first “Hundred Days” of his presidency, Roosevelt’s New Deal programme regulated the stock market, aided the recovery of business, subsidised mortgages and aided unemployment levels. In 1935, he set up Social Security and began a work relief programme for the unemployed. The success he experienced as a result of these programmes earned him re-election in 1936 and ensured the economic future of the United States of America.

The 1939 outbreak of war in Europe turned Roosevelt’s attention to foreign policy, and ultimately solved the nation’s economic problems. Although America initially remained neutral, Roosevelt acknowledged that her involvement in the war was inevitable. Following his 1940 re-election, and the commencement of the third term of his presidency, factories began to prepare for war and production was soon back up to pre-Depression levels.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941 followed by aggression by Italy and Germany towards the United States brought the nation into the war. Roosevelt was an active Commander-In-Chief. His previous military experience had prepared him for such an eventuality and he worked closely with military advisors.

Involved in both Europe and the Pacific, America and her allies made progress against the enemy. Within three years of US involvement, the war was almost over. In his wisdom, Roosevelt had spent much of his time planning the United Nations as he hoped it would ensure international peace in the future.

Although successful in the political world, the strain of his position took a toll on Roosevelt’s health. Although he was elected for a fourth time in 1944, he was diagnosed with a heart complaint and circulatory deficiencies. Despite attempts to rectify this, his health continued to deteriorate.

Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke whilst on vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12th, 1945. He was aged 63.


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