The Words That Reshaped America: FDR

The Words That Reshaped America: FDR

by Stamford Parker, Franklin D. Roosevelt

A brilliant collection of memorable quotations frominaugural addresses, messages to Congress, speeches, andpress conferences given by

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
"This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper...let me assert my belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear

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A brilliant collection of memorable quotations frominaugural addresses, messages to Congress, speeches, andpress conferences given by

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
"This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper...let me assert my belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
--From FDR's Inaugural address, March 1933

Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office when the country and its millions of people, from the heartlands to the big cities, were in the grip of the Great Depression. Roosevelt promised hope and his NewDeal brought the relief so desperately needed, forever changing the face of America.

In the following decade, America and the president faced another monumental challenge.

"December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. I ask that the Congress declare...a state of war."
--From FDR's address to Congress, December 8, 1941

Now Roosevelt prepared the nation for war -- with Germany and Italy as well as Japan, With his legendary Fireside Chats, the president informed and educated the people, soothed their fears, and inspired America to get behind the fight for freedom.

Roosevelt's candor and confidence, his faith in the people, his swift and decisive actions that time and again proved his words true were, in the end, why Roosevelt's message had such a profound and permanent effect on America.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.55(d)

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In Roosevelt's first gubernatorial inaugural address, on January 1, 1929, what is remarkably clear is the degree to which FDR's personal style and substantial positivist demeanor had already evolved. His themes of a participatory population going out and getting the job done, and his view of the American public in general, were already fully established. He would return to many of the themes of this speech over and over throughout his political career.

It is a proud thing to be a citizen of the state of New York, not because of our great population and our natural resources, nor on account of our industries, our trade, or agricultural development, but because the citizens of this state, more than any other state in the Union, have grown to realize the interdependence on each other which modem civilization has created.

Under the leadership of the great governor whose place you have selected me to fill has come a willingness on our part to give as well as to receive, to aid, through the agency of the state, the well-being of the men and women who, by their toil, have made our material prosperity possible.

I object to having this spirit of personal civil responsibility to the state and to the individual, which has placed New York in the lead as a progressive commonwealth, described as "humanitarian." It is far more than that. It is the recognition that our civilization cannot endure unless we, as individuals, realize our personal responsibility to and dependence on the rest of the world. For it is literally true that the "self-supporting" man or woman has become as extinct as the man of the Stone Age. Without the help of thousands of others, any one of us woulddie, naked and starved. Consider the bread upon our table, the clothes upon our backs, the luxuries that make life pleasant; how many men worked in sunlit fields, in dark mines, in the fierce heat of molten metal, and among the looms and wheels of countless factories, in order to create them for our use and enjoyment.

I am proud that we of this state have grown to realize this dependence, and, what is more important, have also come to know that we, as individuals, in our turn must give our time and our intelligence to help those who have helped us. To secure more of life's pleasures for the farmer; to guard the toilers in the factories and ensure them a fair wage and protection from the dangers of their trades; to compensate them by adequate insurance for injuries received while working for us; to open the doors of knowledge to their children more widely; to aid those who are crippled and ill; to pursue with strict justice all evil persons who prey upon their fellow men; and at the same time, by intelligent and helpful sympathy, to lead wrongdoers into right paths — all of these great aims of life are more fully realized here than in any other state in the Union. We have but started on the road, and we have far to go; but during the last six years in particular, the people of this state have shown their impatience of those who seek to make such things a football of politics or by blind, unintelligent obstruction attempt to bar the road to progress.

Most gratifying of all, perhaps, is the practical way in which we have set about to take the first step toward this higher civilization, for, first of all, has been the need to set our machinery of government in order. If we are to reach these aims efficiently without needless waste of time or money, we must continue the efforts to simplify and modernize. You cannot build a modem dynamo with the ancient forge and bellows of the medieval blacksmith. The modernization of our administrative procedure, not alone that of the state, but also of those other vital units of countries, of cities, of towns, and of villages, must be accomplished; and while in the unit of the state we have almost reached our goal, I want to emphasize that in other units we have a long road to travel.

Each one of us must realize the necessity of our personal interest, not only toward our fellow citizens, but in the government itself. You must watch, as a public duty, what is done and what is not done at Albany. You must understand the issues that arise in the legislature, and the recommendations made by your governor, and judge for yourselves if they are right or wrong. If you find them right it is your duty as citizens on next election day to repudiate those who oppose, and to support by your vote those who strive for their accomplishment.

I want to call particularly on the public press of this state, in whose high standards I have the greatest confidence, to devote more space to the explanation and consideration of such legislation as may come up this year, for no matter how willing the individual citizen may be to support wise and progressive measures, it is only through the press — and I mean not only our great dailies but their smaller sisters in the rural district — that our electorate can learn and understand what is going on.

There are many puzzling problems to be solved. I shall here mention but three. In the brief time that I have been speaking to you, there has run to waste on their paths toward the sea enough power from our rivers to have turned the wheels of a thousand factories, to have lit a million farmers' homes — power which nature has supplied us through the gift of God. It is intolerable that the utilization of this stupendous heritage should be longer delayed by petty squabbles and partisan dispute. Time will not solve the problem; it will be more difficult as time goes on to reach a fair conclusion. It must be solved now.

I should like to state clearly the outstanding features of the problem itself. First, it is agreed, I think, that the water power of the state should belong to all the people. There was, perhaps, some excuse for careless legislative gift of power sites in the days when it was of no seemingly great importance. There can be no such excuse now. The title to this power must vest forever in the people of this state. No commission — no, not the legislature itself has any right to give, for any consideration whatever, a single potential kilowatt in virtual perpetuity to any person or corporation whatsoever. The legislature in this matter is but the trustee of the people, and it is its solemn duty to administer such heritage so as most greatly to benefit the whole people. On this point there can be no dispute.

It is also the duty of our legislative bodies to see that this power, which belongs to all the people, is transformed into usable electrical energy and distributed to them at the lowest possible cost. It is our power; and no inordinate profits must be allowed to those who act as the people's agents in bringing this power to their homes and workshops. If we keep these two fundamental facts before us, half of the problem disappears.

There remains the technical question as to which of several methods will bring this power to our doors with the least expense. Let me here make clear the three divisions of this technical side of the question...

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