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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In March 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd president of the United States. During his presidency he was the only president in America's history to hold office for four terms. He led America during the Great Depression and World War II. Franklin Roosevelt was head of the powerful Democratic Party which controlled American politics for thirty years. Roosevelt was a controversial leader in his time, some people admired him and others despised him, but today he is considered to be one of the greatest American presidents.

Franklin Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. Franklin's father, James Roosevelt, married Sara Delano (Franklin's mother) in 1880 several years after his first wife had died. Sara had been only 26 at the time of the marriage while James had been 52. They had a happy marriage until James died in 1900.

Franklin was treated as an only child when he was born because his half brother was an adult by then. His parents sheltered and spoiled young Franklin. His parents kept him in dresses and long curls until he was five years old. During the summers Franklin went with his parents to Europe, the seaside of New England, or to the Campobello Island off the Coast of New Brunswick. Since he spent many summers by the sea Franklin Roosevelt developed an interest in sailing.

Franklin Roosevelt was home schooled by governesses and tutors until he was fourteen years old. He then attended Groton School in Massachusetts between 1896 and 1900. Franklin's academic record was average and he did not excel at sports either. Some of his class mates called him the "feather duster" because he seemed priggish but that was mostly due to the sheltered life he had led. Franklin then went on to attend Harvard until 1904. His academic record was again average but he finished his B.A. in three years. During his fourth year at Harvard he was editor of the college newspaper, Crimson. Franklin was never very motivated about school.

Franklin soon became engaged to Eleanor Roosevelt, a fifth cousin who was once removed. They married on March 17, 1905 despite Sara Delano's objections. They had five children, one girl and four boys. All four of the boys would later serve as officers in World War II. They were all also decorated for bravery. Eleanor Roosevelt discovered in 1918 that Franklin was having an affair with her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. She was angry and demanded divorce which Franklin's mother quickly convinced her not to do. Sara told Eleanor that she would have to raise the five children by herself and it would be a public scandal that would ruin Franklin's political career. Eleanor and Franklin agreed that the faÐ*ade of their marriage would remain but the sexual relations would end. Franklin and Eleanor soon built a new relationship as friends and colleagues.

In 1921 when vacationing in Campobello Island Franklin Roosevelt contracted Poliomyelitis which is a viral infection of the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. He probably got it from swimming in the stagnant water of the nearby lake. Franklin Roosevelt was left paralyzed from the waist down although he retained his bowel, bladder, and sexual functions. Roosevelt was proud and refused to accept that he was paralyzed. He tried various therapies and eventually bought a resort in Warm Springs, Georgia claiming that the water helped. Roosevelt refused to be seen in public in a wheelchair and sometimes used crutches. He had iron braces fitted to his hips and legs in which he taught himself to walk a short distance. As much as he hated to be seen in publicly in wheelchair there is a statue of him in a wheelchair in front of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

By 1932 Franklin Roosevelt had climbed the political ladder and was nominated as a democratic candidate in the 1932 election. He received fifty-seven percent of the votes and carried all but six states. To most people Roosevelt was an alternative to President Hoover who many blamed for the great depression. During the campaign Roosevelt said, "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people." It soon became his campaign slogan and later used for his legislature program. Roosevelt was vague on his alternative policies but still he won. He was inaugurated in March 1933.

Roosevelt became president at the depth of the Great Depression. The country was a wreck with a fourth unemployed, two million homeless, and industrial production had fallen more than half since 1929. During his first term Roosevelt implemented many orders and acts to help the country. The economy grew fifty-eight percent between 1932 and 1940. Social Security was established to give economic security to the elderly, poor, and the sick. Roosevelt's goal was to restore popular confidence.

Franklin Roosevelt was then elected to a second term in 1936. During his second term the Fair Labors Standard Act was passed which created minimum wage. This act was the last of the new deal legislation. In 1935 the court ruled some pieces of the New Deal legislation were unconstitutional. Roosevelt wanted to appoint more sympathetic judges who would rule in his favor and he did and as soon deaths and retirement within the Supreme Court occurred. He appointed eight justices to the court.

Although it had been an unwritten rule since the 1790s that presidents don't run for a third term Franklin Roosevelt decided to anyway. Roosevelt won the presidency again by using his leadership experience and promise to keep the United States out of the war. By 1938 Roosevelt slowly began re-armament to be prepared and took a stance against the Axis powers. America supplied the Allies. The unemployment rate decreased because many joined the armed forces or worked in arms factories. Within a few years there was a labor shortage in major factories. The Lend-Lease Act was passed which let America lend a large amount of military equipment to Britain in return for leases on British naval bases. The Lend-Lease Act was later extended to the Soviet Union.

Throughout 1941 Japanese planned their attack on western powers even the United States. Roosevelt was not interested in involving the U.S. in the war in East Asia. He refused to believe that the Japanese would attack the U.S. and favored negotiations hoping to prevent war but on December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 3,000 American personnel. The American Commanders at Pearl Harbor were taken completely by surprise because they had not been warned of a possible attack. The problem was actually in the Washington War Department because since August 1940 they had been able to read Japanese diplomatic codes and had been warned of an attack. They had not passed the warnings



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