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Franklin Delano Roosevelt is generally regarded as one of the United States most effective Presidents. Whether the accolades are entirely justified or Roosevelts effectiveness was simply a product of the time period in which he served as President will always be debated. However, one thing that no one can deny is that Roosevelt took an atypical route on his way to becoming President. Whether he was fighting an illness or coping with the death of a loved one, Roosevelt always managed to keep himself on track and to persist towards his goals and those of the country. People remember FDR for his actions during the Great Depression and World War II, but those actions were preceded by and intertwined with a tough, yet interesting, life that prepared him for his future endeavors. On January 30, 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York to Sara Delano and James Roosevelt (whitehouse.gov). In 1886, at the age of four, Franklin and his family permanently settled into a house in Campobello, New Brunswick, Canada, which was previously a summer getaway (Conkin 34). Two years later, Roosevelt began his formal education under a governess of Archibald and Edmund Rogers. It was here that Roosevelt learned to speak German and received the opportunity to study abroad the next year. While abroad, however, he contracted a mild case of typhoid fever, the first of a multitude of illnesses that he would battle during his life. He returned to Hyde Park in 1890, and was tutored by Miss Riensberg. On September 28 of the same year, Roosevelt began studies under a Swiss governess, Jeanne Sardoz, which lasted for two years. Sardoz taught him some of the ins and outs of the British lifestyle in addition to teaching him the French language. (Conkin 35) In 1891, Roosevelt and his family traveled to Bad Nauheim, Germany, where he studied at a German public school for a short time. Eventually, they returned to the United States where Franklin received additional personal tutoring. For the most part, Arthur Dumper was his main tutor. (Conkin 36) Clearly, Roosevelts life did not start out in typical fashion. While most children went to school to receive an education, FDR learned from a wide variety of tutors coming from very diverse nationalities and backgrounds. This diversity may have been part of the reason that Roosevelt was so successful later in life when he became President. Once he completed his years of tutoring, Roosevelt entered Groton school, where he studied under headmaster, Endicott Peabody. While at Groton, he made his first ever political speech on the topic of the Nicaragua Canal Bill. (Ginna 33) On January 17, 1898, Warren Delano II, Franklins grandfather, passed away (Eisenhower 44). True to form, Roosevelt pushed forward only two days later by delivering an address during a debate at Groton. In April, Scarlet fever struck Roosevelt badly, forcing him to leave Groton. Intent on finishing his education at the school, he returned to Groton, as soon as he was physically able, for his final year. Finally, on June 25, 1900, Roosevelt graduated from Groton and was awarded the Latin prize. (Eisenhower 45) In September of 1900, Franklin Roosevelt entered Harvard University and tried out for the football and crew teams. He did not make either team, but he was elected to be an editor of Harvards school newspaper Crimson. (Diggins 69) Unfortunately for FDR, his father passed away on December 8 after battling a long-term illness and a heart condition (Diggins 57). It seemed Roosevelt simply could not escape hardship, and this reality must have prepared him emotionally for anything that could possibly happen. A significant event happened in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States following the assassination of William McKinley. From this point on, Roosevelt attempted to model his career after his role model and fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. (Diggins 75) Now, FDR had someone to look up to, someone to provide something tangible for him to strive for. After all, if a family member could become President of the United States, why would FDR himself not be able to? In 1903, Franklin Roosevelt began his senior year at Harvard and was elected president of the Crimson. While attending Harvard, Roosevelt engaged Miss Eleanor Roosevelt, who was Theodore Roosevelts niece. Eleanors father was actually one of Franklins godparents. (Ginna 66) In 1905, Franklin and Eleanor married and took a three month delayed honeymoon for themselves in Europe that June. The next year, in May, the couple gave birth to their first child, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. (Asbell 99) With such a marriage, one must believe that Roosevelt dealt with a good deal of criticism. However, the couple had a very successful marriage, and they were one of the most well known couples in the world for the next 40 years. In June of 1904, Roosevelt graduated from Harvard and immediately entered the Columbia University School of Law. In 1907, Roosevelt passed the New York Bar Examination and found employment as a junior clerk at a law firm on Wall Street in New York City named Carter, Ledyard, and Milburn. Soon after, his first son, James, was born. The next year, his second son, Franklin Delano, Jr., was born. However, the boy died the following year marking yet another dramatic setback in Roosevelts life. Two years later, they had another son, Elliott, who was born on September 23, 1910, in New York City. On November 8, the Democrats nominated Roosevelt for State Senator for New Yorks 26th District. After considerable work campaigning and marketing his name, Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Senate by a wide margin. (Eisenhower 113) Even during a hectic time in his life when he and Eleanor had three young children to care for, FDR continued to further his career and keep himself in the publics eye. In June of 1912, FDR played a minor role at the Democratic Convention in Baltimore, supporting Woodrow Wilsons nomination for the presidency. In July, he organized The Empire State Democracy with seventy other progressives to support Wilsons campaign and to oppose Tammanys domination of the state ticket. (Eisenhower 111) On August 24, Roosevelt was re-nominated for the state senate, but he could not campaign because he contracted typhoid fever. Despite his illness and attacks from Tammany, he was re-elected to the state senate on November 5. (Diggins 132) At this point, Roosevelt must have seemed to be impervious to any obstacle. Without campaigning and battling an illness, he still managed to return to the state senate for one more term. On March 17, 1913, Roosevelts career took another giant step forward when President Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He served under Secretary Josephus Daniels. Less than one month later, he made a speech before the Navy League in Washington, D.C. that stressed the need for a larger navy. The next year, Franklin and Eleanor had another son, and named him Franklin Delano, Jr., in memory of the son they lost. Ironically, he was born at Compobello, the same place Roosevelt had frequented as a young boy. Also that year, Roosevelt was defeated in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate by James W. Gerard. The setback would not discourage Roosevelt from continuing to pursue his ultimate goal of becoming President. In March of 1916, the Roosevelts had their last child, John Aspinwall, who was born in Washington, D.C. (Diggins 135) On February 3, 1917, Roosevelt received word from Secretary Daniels while he was in Santo Domingo on business that he needed to return to Washington. Germany had announced its intention to begin submarine warfare. On April 2, he listened to Wilsons war message and learned that war against Germany was imminent. (Eisenhower 117) In November, Roosevelts had his plan for a North Sea mine barrage approved after a long dispute amongst Navy officials. Franklin Roosevelt left Brooklyn, New York, on a destroyer for an inspection trip in Europe in July of 1918. He inspected installations in England, France, and Italy until September. When he returned to New York, he once again became seriously ill with influenza. Three months later, after overcoming the illness, Roosevelt sailed on the George Washington with his wife. The boat was headed for Europe on a mission to dismantle American Navy installations. On the way to Europe, they stopped in Boston and had a luncheon meeting with Wilson. Wilson convinced Roosevelt that the United States had to join the League of Nations. (Eisenhower 118) The influence of FDR is evident in the fact that the President of the United States felt the need to acquire Roosevelts approval before making a decision of such magnitude. A couple months later, The Republican senators made an attempt to involve FDR in a Navy scandal at Newport, charging that he had authorized highly objectionable methods in collecting evidence in homosexual cases. These charges were eventually dropped. However, the situation is yet another example of Roosevelts tough-mindedness (Conkin 130). At the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco on July 6, 1920, Roosevelt was nominated for Vice President to run with Governor James M. Cox of Ohio, and he immediately began to campaign in Chicago. One month later, he resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to better concentrate on this position. (Ginna 164) Unfortunately, Roosevelt and Cox lost by a landslide in this election on November 2 to Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us). Roosevelt felt that his time would come, and he still did not see anything blocking his path to the presidency. Upon losing the election, Roosevelt returned to law practice with a firm called Emmet, Marvin and Roosevelt. At this time, he was also named vice president of the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, in charge of the New York office. Later in 1921, Roosevelt contracted infantile paralyses, also known as poliomyelitis, or polio for short. He was taken to Presbyterian Hospital in New York City when the condition worsened, and he was treated for one month. After, he went home and was basically bed-ridden until he was fitted with steel leg braces that helped him walk. (Diggins 177) Of all the illnesses Roosevelt was stricken with in his life, polio had to be the most serious. However, most people will agree that the most successful part of his career did not occur until after this major setback. Leave it to Roosevelt to accomplish something that improbable. Through all of this hardship, Roosevelt still managed to become president of the American Construction Council for six years. He also became the presidential campaign manager for Alfred E. Smith. On June 26, 1924, FDR delivered the nominating speech for Smith in Madison Square Garden on crutches. He called Smith the Happy Warrior of the political battlefield, a name that stuck with Smith throughout his career. Toward the end of that year, Roosevelt ended his law partnership with Marvin and Emmet, citing old-fashioned styles that were not conducive with his own beliefs as the reason. He entered into a new partnership with D. Basil OConnor. (Conkin 159) In 1926, FDR published his first book titled, Whither Bound. The next year, he founded the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for the treatment of polio victims. Another book, The Happy Warrior, Alfred E. Smith, is published later in 1927. (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us) A nomination for Roosevelt came in 1928 by Alfred Smith for the governorship of New York. He won the election, and in 1929, F.D.R. was inaugurated governor. He changed everything Governor Smith had set up by replacing Secretary of the State Robert Moses with Edward J. Flynn, Industrial Commissioner Dr. James A. Hamilton with Miss Frances Perkins, and decided not to reappoint Belle Moskowitz as his secretary. His first year in office was an extremely successful one. For this reason, he was re-elected on November 4 of the following year. In the next two years, Roosevelt called for a banking reform to protect depositors, approved bill regulating hours of labor for women and children in New York State, and gave the address at the opening of the Empire State Building, among other beneficial decisions. (Asbell 212) It would seem that this position was a major stepping-stone for Roosevelt in his quest to become President. Not only was he given a chance to implement some of his own ideas, but he was also re-acclimated to the political environment. This would prove beneficial in the coming years. FDRs Government Not Politics was published in 1932, and it may have helped him move closer towards his goal of becoming President (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us). On July 1, 1932, Roosevelt was nominated for President of the United States on the fourth ballot. He won the election on November 8, and in 1933, FDR was inaugurated. During his first Hundred Days, as the first three months have come to be known, many important events occurred under Roosevelts leadership. (Conkin 215) One act of extreme importance was the Emergency Banking Relief Act. This movement placed banks under federal control and provided for their re-opening. Also, the Economy Act was signed, which saved about $243 million. During this time, Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to create employment for young men and to aid in reforestation work. Another extremely important decision was his request that Congress create a Tennessee Valley Authority, which proved to be very useful. During the Hundred Days, Roosevelt signed the Johnson-OMalley Act, which provided federal aid to states for Indian welfare. The United States also eliminated the gold standard, hence raising domestic prices. He signed the Federal Securities Act, which provided regulations to require full disclosure to investors on new securities. Lastly, he signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which created todays National Recovery Administration (NRA). This supervised industrys attempt at self-regulation by establishing fair trade in competition. (Conkin 220) FDR also published another book in 1934 entitled, On the Way (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us). Roosevelts first term was very successful as he finally got a chance to implement his own ideas, and the people began to have faith in his decisions. Proof is in the fact that many people attributed the end of the Great Depression directly to Roosevelt. It is possible that because he was President when the Depression ended, some saw him as almost superhuman, and they would support any decision he made. In 1936, Roosevelt was re-elected, and on January 20, 1937, he was inaugurated once again. On March 1, he signed the Retirement Act, which removed income tax hardships from justices who retired at 70. On May 1, he signed the Neutrality Act, which gave him much power. On August 26, he signed the Revenue Act of 1937, which tried to help income taxes. Then, on December 12, Japanese planes sunk the United States gunboat, Panay on the Yangtze River. Roosevelt forced Japan to apologize and pay $2 million in reparations. (Eisenhower 200) It is almost as if everything Roosevelt tried to do, he did. He had power like no other President in the United States history. On January 20, 1941, Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to be inaugurated for the third straight term (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us). Throughout this term, the United States was involved in World War II. Roosevelts reputation as one of our greatest Presidents was taken to a new level during these years, probably due to the success that the United States had in the war, both on the European front and the Pacific front. Furthermore, the fact that life on the mainland carried on as smoothly as it did is often attributed directly to Roosevelts leadership. On January 20, 1945, Roosevelt was inaugurated for his unprecedented fourth and final term (nscds.pvt.k12.il.us). The fact that this term would be so short was obviously unknown at the time, but Roosevelt was intent on completing the war and restoring peace among the involved countries. From February 4 -11, he attended the Yalta Conference along with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Russias Premier Joseph Stalin, among others. Most decisions from this meeting were not released until after the war, but the future implementation of some of these decisions can undoubtedly be directly linked to Roosevelt. (Diggins 226) Unfortunately, Roosevelt could not complete even the first year of his final term. On April 12, 1945, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia, and passed away. He was buried in the Rose Garden at Hyde Park on April 15. (Eisenhower 227) The end of the war later that year was a bittersweet victory for the U.S. Sure, the nation had defeated the extremely powerful Adolph Hitler and Germany, but it had also lost one of the greatest leaders in the nations history during that same year. Without question, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is seen as a superior leader and President of the United States. Many Americans, past and present, remember him as the man who saved their jobs, their homes, their farms, and their way of life when America stood at the brink of disaster during the Depression. Some even attributed the end of World War II solely to FDR. Both are statements of debate. However, what cannot be debated and must be commended is the path that Roosevelt took in becoming President and in carrying out his duties. Many hardships served as obstacles between Roosevelt and his goals. However, it seems that none of these barriers ever hindered Roosevelt from accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish. Only death could remove him from office. Likewise, only death could bring a halt to Franklin Delano Roosevelts success.
Asbell, Bernard. The FDR Memoirs. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1974. Conkin, Paul K. FDR and the Origins of the Welfare State. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1967. Diggins, John P. The Proud Decades. New York: W and W Norton and Company, 1988. Eisenhower, Milton S. The President Is Calling. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1974. Ginna, Robert and Robert Graff. FDR. New York: Harper and Bow Publishers, 1963. Internet. 17 March 2000. Available WWW: http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/fr32.html/ Internet. 25 March 2000. Available WWW: http://www.nscds.pvt.k12.il.us/nscds/us/apushist/roosevelt/time.html#1880
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