Sunday, January 2, 2011
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR is still regarded as one of the greatest presidents, being elected to an unheard of four terms. Congress would ban presidents from serving more than two terms right after FDR passed. FDR is known as the savior of America during the depression, and the president that helped us win WWII. FDR strove to be seen as a strong leader and did that not only in his solutions for the country. FDR was struck with Polio in middle age, a rare age to contract the disease, and was not able to walk without metal braces, and even that was a lot of effort. Even though FDR couldn't walk around, he still tricked the public into thinking he was fine. The government and the press made an agreement not to photograph FDR in his wheelchair or comment on his disease, as FDR thought it might portray him as a weak leader to Americans. In public speeches and other events, he would use the metal braces on his legs to appear to walk, though rigidly, to the podium and deliver his speech. This he felt would portray himself as a strong leader. To help with his image, FDR delivered "fireside chats" in which he would give regular addresses to the American public through the radio. This added enormously to his popularity and put a lot of people's minds at ease. They felt better when FDR was reassuring them that everything was going to be OK.
Roosevelt sought to create jobs to help those effected by the depression by creating new groups and passing relief acts. One of the first was the Civilian Conservation Corps which put 250,000 young men to work on a new national reforestation program. By the time the program ended in 1941, it provided work for 2 million men. FDR officially took America off the gold standard to help stimulate the economy. The Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA) was made to provide grants, rather than loans, to the states. In turn, the states would provide relief to the American public. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) was created, which paid farmers not to till their land and not grow as much. The lower amount of food grown would drive up the price of crops and help the struggling farmers. The most well known act passed during this time was the Social Security Act. This gave pensions to people sixty-five and older, set up unemployment insurance system, and assisted states in providing aid to dependent children, the blink and senior citizens who did not qualify for Social Security payments. This was all well and good but unfortunatley, the government decided it was alright to take money out of Social Security and have other generations pay for the older ones instead of keeping the money where it was supposed to stay. That's why we're in the pickle we are in today with Social Security.
The 21st amendment is passed, which ended Prohibition for good. It didn't work anyway. FDR passed the Neutrality Act, which prevented American corporations from shipping weapons to belligerents during wartime. FDR wanted to keep us out of war so we could focus on getting people jobs, but knew we would be dragged in eventually, so he made sure that a lot of jobs that were being created were ones that made planes and tanks and other military supplies. In 1940, FDR passes the Selective Training and Service Act, which is the only peace-time draft. This was FDR having great foresight. Later, FDR signs the Lend-Lease Act, which allows the U.S. to lend arms and other war materials to any nation if it is in the U.S.' interest to do so. This was basically to show Great Britain that we supported them, without declaring war on the Axis powers.
Then what everyone feared came to fruition. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and we declared war on them. This in turn led to Germany and Italy declaring war on us. Thus, we were now a part of the second World War. I will cover what happens in the war in another post. This ones just about FDR. During the war, seeing as China is an ally, the U.S. repeals the Chinese Exclusion act. Oh..whats that? You forgot about that silly law? Yep, it was still in effect at this time. It lasted for 80 years. There was not a lot of Chinese in America at the time thanks to this.
Not all of FDR's presidency was all roses though. Early in his second term, with many older supreme court judges going against his new deal plans, he tried to get them booted out if they were over 70. This was an attempt for FDR to get rid of six judges and pack it full of liberal judges that would agree with him. This cost FDR a lot of support, even from his close allies. During the war, FDR chose to ignore the Nazi concentration camps, arguing that the sooner the Allies won the war, the sooner the Holocaust would end. FDR's biggest offense though, in my book, was his Japanese Internment Camps. When the war started, he had everyone that was of Japanese descent or basically anyone that may of been Japanese and had them detained in internment camps throughout the war. He even went as far as asking Latin American countries if they would please send any Japanese citizens they had up to the states to be detained. Most were not released until the war ended or even a few years after it had ended. Many Japanese who went back to their homes and places of business found them to be stripped of anything valuable. The feeling was that any Japanese person could be a traitor to America and deserved anything that happened to them. This was pure paranoia on FDR's and America's part and was one of the biggest atrocities we have committed as a country.
FDR served three terms and four months into his fourth in April 1945, he died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. His vice president, Harry Truman, was sworn in as president right after.
Roosevelt is consistently ranked in the top six presidents of all time, going either below or above his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. He is praised for his New Deal programs and the jobs he and Congress helped create, for his role in leading the Americans to victory in the Second World War, and his strong, personal leadership. He won more elections than any other president and all happened to be landslide victories. His legacy is tarnished though by his dealings with the Supreme Court and his detainment of Japanese-American citizens. I would give him a lower score because I find the internment camps to be one of the most disgusting things we have done. Though no matter how angry or disappointed I am, his accomplishments cannot be thrown away because of his massive paranoia. He stands with Andrew Jackson as a great, powerful president, that tarnished his own legacy by disenfranchising a group of people.