As the Great Depression deepened, Americans looked for a new leader. Franklin D Roosevelt won a landslide victory over President Hoover in the 1932 election. Roosevelt’s critics thought he was “too feeble and wishy-washy” to make a difference, but he proved them wrong. During his inaugural address, he said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” He quickly made changes that reenergized the country and brought hope.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was born into a wealthy family from New York. He lived a privileged life and was taught at home by tutors. He married his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.
- Roosevelt graduated from Columbia Law School and began a career in politics. He served in the New York Senate and as assistant secretary of the navy. In 1921, he became ill with polio and was paralyzed from the waist down. His wife, Eleanor, showed a quiet strength, supporting him in his recovery and helping him regain his political career. With her help, he was elected governor of New York.
- When Roosevelt was elected President, he gathered a group of economic, agricultural, legal, and financial experts to discuss solutions for the country’s problems. When he took office, he immediately made sweeping changes based on his “Three Rs:” Relief Programs, aimed at helping the needy; Reform Programs, designed to change the situations that had helped cause the Great Depression; and Recovery Programs, which helped restore the economy and send people back to work.
- The Public Works Administration, for example, funded the building of schools, gardens, parks, and city halls, giving many people new jobs. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration encouraged farmers to plant fewer crops and raise fewer animals, which caused food prices to go up and increased farmers’ profits.
- The government spent billions of dollars on New Deal programs, which did help ease suffering, but did not completely bring an end to the Great Depression. During Roosevelt’s second term in office, he announced a second New Deal, which created even more government programs, such as social security, unemployment insurance, and welfare. Many of his programs still exist today.
- Inaugural address: the speech a new President gives as he or she takes office
- Privileged: to be given special or unusual opportunities
- Polio: a debilitating disease that was common during the early 20th century
- Social security: a government program in which senior citizens are sent a monthly check based on the income they earned during their working years; the disabled can also benefit from social security.
Questions and Answers
Question:Did Roosevelt’s second New Deal end the Great Depression?
Answer: Just as President Obama’s stimulus package helped ease, but not completely reverse, economic struggles in the 2008-2010 recession, Roosevelt’s programs gave Americans jobs and a renewed sense of hope, but didn’t entirely solve the problems of the Great Depression. By the late 1930s, the economy had weakened even more, in spite of Roosevelt’s programs, and many voters were concerned that government had grown too big and created too many programs.
Visit Treasury Kids to learn more about how the government spends money.