FDR376Notes - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural...

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “First Inaugural Address” Roosevelt begins with the claim that the present crisis demands a frank telling of the truth and will require us to honestly face the condition we find ourselves in. He famously states, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.” What is he asking of the people here? Franklin not only constructs a mythic America, but also attempts, again, to minimize the fear of the people, as he attests, “our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.” He places blame for the crisis on ‘the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s good,’ and refers to them as, ‘unscrupulous money lenders.’ These men, he argues, have only the old solutions – which have clearly failed – to offer, and can provide no new direction. This is an opportunity to return to ‘ancient truths,’ that depend on us applying, ‘social values more noble than mere monetary profit.’ He says, “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.” Wealth can no longer be the standard of success, and service ought not be performed only for the promise of wages, profit and gain. No one will place confidence in the system unless it is based on honesty, obligation and the unselfish performance of duty. Beyond this ethical shift, he calls us to a major program of social action, and implies that no crisis is beyond the capacity of the people. He encourages us to act as we might in an emergency situation, like a war. He then outlines some massive policy ideas. What does he mean in saying, “The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not nationally -- narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States of America -- a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 790 376 taught by Professor Murphy during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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FDR376Notes - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural...

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