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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (1882-1945), 32nd of the United States. Roosevelt became president in March 1933 at the depth of the Great Depression, was reelected for an unprecedented three more terms, and died in office in April 1945, less than a month before the surrender of Germany in World War II. Despite an attack of poliomyelitis, which paralyzed his legs in 1921, he was a charismatic optimist whose confidence helped sustain the American people during the strains of economic crisis and world war.
He was one of America's most controversial leaders. Conservatives claimed that he undermined states' rights and individual liberty. Though Roosevelt labored hard to end the Depression, he had limited success. It was not until 1939 and 1940, with the onset of heavy defense spending before World War II, that prosperity returned. Roosevelt also displayed limitations in his handling of foreign policy. In the 1930's he was slow to warn against the menace of fascism, and during the war he relied too heavily on his charm and personality in the conduct of diplomacy.
Still, Roosevelt's historical reputation is deservedly high. In attacking the Great Depression he did much to develop a partial welfare state in the United States and to make the federal government an agent of social and economic reform. His administration indirectly encouraged the rise of organized labor and greatly invigorated the . His foreign policies, while occasionally devious, were shrewd enough to sustain domestic unity and the allied coalition in World War II. Roosevelt was a president of stature.
The future president was born on Jan. 30, 1882, at the family estate in Hyde Park, N.Y. His father, James (1828-1900), was descended from Nicholas Roosevelt, whose father had emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in the 1640's. One of Nicholas' two sons, Johannes, fathered the line that ultimately produced President Theodore Roosevelt. The other son, Jacobus, was James' great-great-grandfather.
James graduated from Union College (1847) and Harvard Law School, married, had a son, and took over his family's extensive holdings in coal and transportation. Despite substantial losses in speculative ventures, he remained wealthy enough to journey by private railroad car, to live graciously on his Hudson River estate at Hyde Park, and to travel extensively.
Four years after his first wife died in 1876, James met and married Sara Delano, a sixth cousin. She, too, was a member of the Hudson River aristocracy. Her father, one of James' business associates, had made and lost fortunes in the China trade before settling with his wife and 11 children on the west bank of the Hudson. Sara had sailed to China as a girl, attended school abroad, and moved in high social circles in London and Paris. Though only half her husband's age of 52 at the time of her marriage in 1880, she settled in happily at Hyde Park. Their marriage was serene until broken by James' death in 1900.
His record at Harvard, which he attended between 1900 and 1904, was only slightly more impressive. Thanks to his excellent preparation at Groton, he was able to complete his course of study for his B.A. in 1903, in only three years. During his fourth year he served as editor of the Crimson, the college newspaper. However, he was not accepted for Porcellian, Harvard's most prestigious social club, and he did not receive much stimulation in the classroom. As at Groton, his grades were mediocre, and he showed no excitement about his studies.
At this point politics gave him a sense of purpose. The Democratic organization in Dutchess county, the area around Hyde Park, needed a candidate for the New York state Senate in 1910. Party leaders recognized that although Roosevelt had no political experience he had assets as a candidate: the wealth to finance a campaign, and the best-known political name in the United States. Roosevelt worked as never before during the campaign. Acquiring a car, he crisscrossed the county in his quest for support. He showed skill at making himself agreeable to voters and a willingness to listen to the advice of political veterans. As at Groton and Harvard, during his political career he proved open and adaptable. For all these reasons Roosevelt won impressively in the usually Republican district.
Roosevelt made an immediate impact in the legislative session of 1911. At that time U. S. senators
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United States Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Delano family, Freemen of the City of London, Sons of the American Revolution, Theodore Roosevelt, Hyde Park, New York, Roosevelt, James Farley, Fireside chats, Roosevelt family, Eleanor Roosevelt
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