“This Nation Asks For Action”

During the 2008 presidential campaign there were many references made to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the 1st and 2nd New Deals of 1933 and 1935, respectively. There have been many references made to FDR and the New Deals since the election of Barack Obama, as well.

Roosevelt, of course, was the President who led America through and out of the Wall Street “Crash” of 1929 and subsequent Depression. The New Deals were his administration’s agenda and programs to bring relief, recovery and reform to the United States’ economic system that had been devastated by the “Crash.” The New Deals’ programs were neither passive nor traditional in their philosophy or approach to the solving of the economic crisis and included new progressive economic policies, government agencies and work programs.

Many are comparing today’s economic recession with the Wall Street “Crash” of 1929. Obama is being likened to FDR.  And, others are saying that America needs a “New Deal”-type philosophy and approach to resolving our 21st Century economic woes and the conducting of our national affairs.

Having heard all of the references to Roosevelt, I decided to find and read his four inaugural addresses. The first two, in 1933 and 1937, were delivered as the depression raged. The second two, in 1941 and 1945, were delivered as World War II raged.

I was particularly interested in the first two addresses. There were a number of statements in each that I found very interesting, either because they could be said today and have meaning and application to our current situation, or, I just liked what I read.

So, I want to share with you some of Roosevelt’s words from his first two inaugural speeches.

From the 1933 address:

“So, first of all, 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.”

“…the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side;”

“More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.”

“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. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.”

“The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”

“Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.”

“It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through the foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their costs be drastically reduced. it can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character.”

“Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old older; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, ….”

As Roosevelt was drawing his speech to a close, he spoke about the nation working together for the common good and the leadership that he expected to give to the nation as its new president.

In a final statement, Roosevelt said, “We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.”

Tomorrow, quotes I like from FDR’s second inaugural speech.

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