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LIFESAVER HERO:
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
by Thomas from San Diego

Franklin D. Roosevelt at his Presidential desk

Sitting behind a grand desk, a hero leans back in his chair and looks out a window. Papers and notes are strewn about his desk containing information that would change his beloved country. The words "war," "a new enemy," and "death" are underlined. A contemplative look was set in his face. Looking down with disdain, words swept through his mind once again, “The only thing that we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled those words from his inaugural speech in 1933. As Roosevelt led us for the next 13 years, he would live by and never sway from those words. In Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, Roosevelt was born to James and Sarah Roosevelt. Through his grade school years Roosevelt attended Groton School in New York. After earning his degree in history from Harvard University, Roosevelt married his distant cousin Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who was also the niece of Theodore Roosevelt. He went on to serve as New York’s governor for two terms. Years later in 1920, Roosevelt was nominated for Vice President but was defeated. Just one year later, on August 10, 1921, Roosevelt was stricken with Polio while on vacation in New Brunswick, Canada, leaving his legs paralyzed. In 1932, Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover and was elected President for his first of four terms. During his time as President of the United States, Roosevelt led us through some of our nation’s hardest times. He bore through and brought us out of a national crisis known as The Great Depression, and years later the period we know as World War II. He gave hope to people abroad and chose to go after the problems with which the United States were facing. Roosevelt is a hero to me and many others as they have looked up to him for being a ‘guiding light’ through unmistakably hard times, and for his perseverance through his personal battles which taught us that we cannot give up on ourselves, or each other.

Roosevelt sitting with Churchill and Stalin
During times of need, people look for someone, or something to guide them. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt was this source of guidance for the American people. Roosevelt understood that in order to repair and strengthen the country and to bring it out of the ill-presented state, that he needed a plan. This plan was the “New Deal” in which he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people." Roosevelt summarized the New Deal as a "use of the authority of government as an organized form of self-help for all classes and groups and sections of our country.”(The New Deal) This brought hope to countless Americans as it was the only guidance that was given to them at the time. Roosevelt knew that he needed to step up to the plate and lead the country to show U.S. citizens that there was hope. He also knew that in order to do just that, he needed a plan, and he needed the public to know and understand what was being done. Through this effort, Roosevelt would start to bring the United States out of the Great Depression, and lead the people into an easier and happier time. Through his words, "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is, fear itself — needless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”(The Great Depression), Roosevelt was telling the public that if we continue in this vicious cycle that we have found ourselves in; no good would come out of it. To aid in his mission to restore hope, Roosevelt conducted ‘Fireside Chats’, where he would go on the radio and TV to update everyone in the nation and tell them his plans. This really brought the American people into the loop and everyone felt more secure during the tough times. Leading the country at a time of war, Roosevelt involved everyone in order to support the war effort and push forward. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt said these words, “Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.”(Pearl) What Roosevelt was saying is that if you mess with the United States, no good shall come from it and that you will regret it. At a time of panic and worry, these words brought a little calm to the people. Roosevelt was very good at doing so, in order to make sure that we stayed strong together through thick and thin as a country. By looking back to those times, we can see that this was very successful and brought a very strong sense of pride to many people. Overall, Roosevelt was the main ‘guiding light’ for the U.S. through those times and without him; things may have resulted very differently.

Roosevelt swimming at the Georgia Warm Springs
Even before the pressure of the Presidency and War had been bestowed upon Roosevelt, he had been fighting his own personal battles for many years. This personal struggle had begun during a vacation at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, when he was struck with Poliomyelitis, also known as Polio. For a short period of time after, he was almost completely paralyzed. However over the next few days, Roosevelt regained movement from his waist up, but his legs proved unmovable. Although “In 1924, he had discovered the healing waters of a resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, and went there regularly for swimming and other vigorous exercise to strengthen his muscles.”(HHMI) Roosevelt would never be again to regain the use of his legs and would spend a large majority of the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Yet despite being paralyzed, Roosevelt went on and persevered through it all. Wanting to show the American people that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, and that you shouldn’t let anything hold you back, in 1927 he “formed the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, a hydrotherapy center for polio victims. FDR sometimes even led physical therapy sessions with patients, who called him "Uncle Rosey." Many of the treatment techniques for patients recovering from polio and other paralytic disorders, as well as orthopedic designs and principles, were developed at Warm Springs.”(HHMI) People who saw his struggles, were inspired as they watched him climb into the Presidential role for the next 13 years, and ultimately lead us through a time of depression, and a world war. Roosevelt had felt the need to start a foundation to help others who have fallen victim to Polio, so he started the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, which brought therapy to those who needed it, thereby showing Americans, that if you want to help people, you need to go out there and find something that will help someone’s troubles become eased. One of the reasons Roosevelt was a hero to the American People because he showed that if you even do something small to help someone, you’re still helping them.

Roosevelt on U.S. flag
Roosevelt had said “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” If we, as a people, lived by those words, we would be able to accomplish many things that we never thought we could. We are all held back by our personal fears and tend not to see the real problems. Roosevelt did not have this problem, as he showed people the way through hard-struck times and through times of war. He showed that you can do anything you put your mind to, no matter the circumstances. He also showed that if you want to make a difference in another’s life, then go out and do it. Although he had his imperfections and limitations, Roosevelt was a great inspiration to Americans, and will continue to live on as a hero, not only for me, but for the many others who learn of his amazing life.



Written by Thomas from San Diego
Last changed on: 8/28/2011

Works Consulted

"Franklin Delano Roosevelt Hero File." Moreorless - Heroes and Killers of the 20th Century. Web. 22 May 2011.

"HHMI's BioInteractive - FDR and Polio: Public Life, Private Pain." Howard Hughes Medical Institute | Biomedical Research & Science Education (HHMI). Web. 22 May 2011.

"Pearl Harbor Speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt." TeachingAmericanHistory.org -- Free Seminars and Summer Institutes for Social Studies Teachers. Web. 22 May 2011.

"Presidential Timeline Franklin D. Roosevelt." The Presidential Timeline of the Twentieth Century. Web. 22 May 2010.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. "Fireside Chat Outlining the New Deal." The Great Depression and the New Deal. Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 1999. American Journey. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 22 May 2011.

"The Franklin D. Roosevelt Administrations." Presidential Administration Profiles for Students. Ed. Kelle S. Sisung and Gerda-Ann Raffaelle. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 22 May 2011.

"The Great Depression - FDR." Southern Illinois University Museum | Home. Web. 22 May 2011. "The New Deal." United States History. Web. 22 May 2011.

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