Franklin Delano Roosevelt (commonly known as FDR) was the 32nd president of the United States of America and was a Democrat by party affiliation. He served as president for four consecutive terms from 1933- until his death in 1945. FDR suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945 (Freidel & Sidey, 2006). He was the only president to serve for more than two terms, and after his death, Congress created the term limit for sitting presidents. He was the fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. Stricken with Polio at an early age of 39, he was known for always being in a wheelchair. He led the American nation through the Great Depression and World War Two.
Early Life. FDR was born on January 30, 1882 as the only child of wealthy parents, James Roosevelt and Sara Ann Delano Roosevelt (Biography.com, 2014). He was homeschooled up until the age of fourteen when he entered a private school. The Groton School for boys was a prestigious Episcopal preparatory school in Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Harvard and pursued legal studies and then onto Columbia University for a law degree. Between the two universities, he fell in love and eventually married Eleanor Roosevelt, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. They had a daughter first followed by five sons in which one of them died at an early age (History.com, 2018).
Early Political Arena. FDR was, as previously mentioned, a Democrat which was opposite of his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. While campaigning, he thought that his attempt at securing a New York Senate seat was futile because the area was heavily Republican, and his cousin was still very influential in the area. However, by campaigning vigorously, he won the Senate seat in 1910 (Freidel & Sidney, 2018). He would not hold the position long. Just after two years in office, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to Secretary of the Navy in March of 1913. It wouldn’t be long before FDR got his first taste and understanding of war.
The United States enter World War I in 1917. During this time, FDR traveled to various naval bases and had a need for the country to be prepared for war. During this time, he also made a run for a high political office. He was selected to run for vice-president with James Cox although they were defeated by the Republican ticket (Freidel & Sidney, 2018). Shortly after, on vacation, Polio struck FDR in 1921 and left him paralyzed. It would forevermore change his life.
He became governor of New York in 1929 and stayed there until 1932. The Great Depression struck in 1929 and was disastrous event in American history (History.com, 2018). Millions of people jobless and living in slums. He held his infamous “fireside chats” that allowed him to talk to people through radio, and people connected with him and allowed him to run for president in 1932.
During the first hundred days in office, he closed banks until legislation could be passed and the “fireside chats” helped restore faith in the government as millions of people listened to his voice (History.com, 2018). He created the New Deal which created programs that allowed for Americans to have jobs and move forward out of the depression.
World War II
World war II was perhaps the reason that FDR achieved the unprecedented and never achieved again third and fourth terms as president. He thought that he was the most suited for the job at the beginning of the war, and when election day came around again, it was during the middle of the war. The situation and special circumstances are what allowed for the first, and only, four-term president. The war and how FDR handled it is what makes him an excellent leader and one of the greats by many people. Unfortunately, FDR did not see the end of the war which would come a few months later. An untimely death by a massive stroke led to Vice-President Harry S. Truman assuming duties as President.
FDR possessed transformational leadership. He was a tall man that gave the impression of a powerful individual. Stricken with polio, he overcame it and showed his willingness to fight and to overcome adversity. People that were suffering from other ailments, whether physical sickness or other ailments, saw him as a leader for the common people. Ultimately, FDR wanted to serve others and by doing so, he not only achieved the vision he had but also empowered others to be more than themselves.
FDR’s leadership is also shown greatly through his everyday activities. “Fireside Chats” were a common theme with FDR. Radios were a popular appliance in many households. FDR talked to people through these “chats” and connected with every day, ordinary individuals. By connecting with people in this manner, people felt that he was hero to the common people and connected with them. I’ve seen movies (Pearl Harbor, 1991) that depict the chats, and people will sit around listening to him talk as if he was there in the living room and was a family member.
Traits. Relationships were crucial to him. He built relationships with foreign leaders which ultimately played out crucially during WWII. The “Allies” of the war were interwoven by FDR’s leadership capabilities. He was also very thorough in education. He felt that it was a priority. He often tasked several of his personal advisors with the same assignment in order for them to bring back to him multiple solutions for consideration (Fullilove, 2013).
Self-confidence was crucial to FDR. Stricken with polio, he didn’t want others to see him in a wheelchair. He would use canes or braces to be able to stand. He did his best to maintain the appearance that he held himself to (Berish, 2014). Others knew of his condition, but they applauded and adored him because of his ability to continuously fight for not only himself but others. Demonstrating his undeniable courage, he would swim in an effort to regain the use of his legs (Freidel & Sidney, 2006).
“ The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The famous quote demonstrates the greatness of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The man had great integrity and faced fear and obstacles in the face and overcame them. He developed relationship and maintained the leadership that was necessary to keep those relationships. He never allowed people to see him down and out. He focused on his vision of helping the country through the wars and getting the government on track. FDR’s ability and leadership are greatly exhibited in his four presidential terms. No president before or after has achieved this feat. He served as president during critical and dangerous times. He was one of the greatest presidents to have served and his leadership should be examined as what presidents should be.
Berish, A. (2014). “FDR and Polio” Presidential Library and Museum National Archives. Retrieved from http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/aboutfdr/polio.html
Biography.com Editors. (2018). Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography. Retrieved from https://biography.com/people/franklin-d-roosevelt-9463381
Freidel, F. & Sidney, H. (2006). “The Presidents of the United States of America”. White House Historical Association.
Fulliliove, M. (2013, July 4). Five lessons on leadership from FDR. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/07/04/five-lessons-on-leadership-from-fdr/
History.com Editors. ((2009). Franklin D. Roosevelt. Retrieved from http://hitsory.com/topics/us-presidents/franklin-d-roosevelt