FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President of the United States during the Great Depression and most of World War II. He died while still the President of the United States just months before the end of the war.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in New York in 1882. Roosevelt was privately educated and attended Harvard and Columbia Universities. Roosevelt was always interested in law, and admired his cousin Theodore Roosevelt who was elected as president of the United States in 1900. Roosevelt married Theodore’s niece Eleanor, who was very supportive of Roosevelt and his law passions.
Roosevelt was appointed as assistant secretary of the United States Navy in 1913. In this role, Roosevelt travelled across the United States, and to Europe. Roosevelt continued to work in politics but ran for President of the United States as a Democratic candidate in 1932 during the early years of the Great Depression.
The Great Depression began on October 24th, 1929 when the New York Stock Exchange began to experience volatility and heavy trading which resulted in a large drop of the overall value of the market. The crash of the market eventually led to major economic issues in the United States (and around the world) which resulted in high unemployment and an economic recession. The United States President at the time was republican Herbert Hoover.
As the Great Depression unfolded Hoover held a general view of the economy based on self-reliance. This means that he believed it was the responsibility of individuals to take care of themselves and not rely on assistance from the government. As such, he did not agree that the government should intervene in the economy and referred to the economic hardship of the Great Depression as “a passing incident”. As a result of his presidency, many working-class people began to name aspects of their poverty after Hoover. For example, shanty-towns that were constructed on the edge of cities in the 1930s were often referred to as ‘Hoovervilles’. In the 1932 presidential election, Hoover faced off against Roosevelt.
Roosevelt offered a completely different view of the recession and ran on the platform of a ‘New Deal’ for the American people. With unemployment over 20% in 1932, Roosevelt blamed the worsening economic conditions on Hoover’s mishandling of the crisis. As a result, Roosevelt won the election in a landslide victory winning 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59. Roosevelt also dominated the popular vote with 23 million votes to Hoover’s 16 million. He became the 32nd president of the United States.
By the time he entered the White House, the Great Depression in the United States had reached desperate levels, with over 13 million people unemployed. As a result, Roosevelt had to make drastic changes. So, as part of his role, Roosevelt put a number of New Deal programs and reforms in place. Thanks to the policies, Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression, and by 1935 the country showed signs of economic recovery. Regardless, the Great Depression ended in the late 1930s with the outbreak of World War II.
While Europe was plunged back into war in September of 1939, with the German invasion of Poland, the United States remained out of the fighting. While Roosevelt wanted to aid the United States' allies such as Britain and France, the war was unpopular in the United States. The world was only 20 years removed from World War I which shocked Americans to the realities of war and the brutality of trench warfare. In general, the American public were not ready for another major conflict after World War I stayed for so long as a stalemate and the cost of life that the First World War caused. The United States in 1939 was not the military powerhouse it is today and it was a considerable risk to the United States to participate in another worldwide conflict.
Some in America believed that the United States should join to support its allies and stop the spread of fascism. This opinion grew in popularity among American politicians after major German advances in Europe, including: the German advances in Denmark, and the surrender of France to German forces. This viewpoint argued that American forces were needed to help Britain fight off the aggressive and powerful German forces. On the other hand, some believed that the advances of the German army in Europe proved that the United States should remain out of the conflict, as the German forces were seen as too strong. For example, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was the American ambassador to Great Britain, held this view and argued that America risked losing if it went up against Nazi Germany. Although the United States did not join direct warfare until 1941 when it was attacked, it did support the Allied effort in the war during the previous years through the Lend-Lease Act. Passed in March of 1941, the Lend-Lease Act allowed President Roosevelt to support the forces of Britain, the Soviet Union and China with ammunition and weapons shipments.
In the end, the United States was forced into the war on December 7th, 1941 when Japan surprise attack the United States at Pearl Harbor. With the help of American troops, the Allies were able to push back Germany in Europe by 1944 and the United States ended World War II in August of 1945 with the atomic bombing of Japan. While it was not Roosevelt who used the atomic bombs against Japan, his leadership was vitally important to their construction because he oversaw the American program to create the first atomic bomb.
Roosevelt led America to victory over Nazi Germany and its allies. After the war, Roosevelt worked with Britain and Russia to build the foundations of a post-war international peace organization. For example, he famously attended the Yalta Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. This organization later became the United Nations, and it is still in place today.
The deals and programs that Roosevelt put in place redefined the role of the federal government in the lives of Americans, and still affect the lives of Americans today. Thanks to his hard work, and successful programs, Roosevelt was re-elected as president four times. He is the only American president in history to have been elected four times. Roosevelt died in 1945, whilst he was still in office just months before the end of the war.