Born in February 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commonly referred to as FDR, served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. Roosevelt claimed the presidency at the height of the Great Depression and worked to alleviate the horrid lifestyles of millions across the nation. The following are the top 10 interesting facts about Franklin Roosevelt.
Top 10 Interesting Facts About Franklin Roosevelt
- Franklin Roosevelt was the only president in American history to have served more than two terms. In November 1944, the American people elected Roosevelt to his fourth term as president. In 1951, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, constraining the presidential term to a limit of two terms.
- In 1921, Franklin Roosevelt atypically contracted polio, a disease that leaves the victim paralyzed. FDR subsequently removed himself from the political landscape and instead focused on his rehabilitation. Roosevelt exercised constantly, even when surrounded by loved ones and incorporated his family into his daily regimens. Roosevelt did not convey shame due to his inability to walk and the people elected him to the governorship of New York in 1928, before becoming president in 1932.
- In 1934, as part of his New Deal, Roosevelt enacted the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA), which was to decrease global poverty and reduce international tensions. The RTAA significantly changed the U.S. trade policy. It gave the president the power to increase or decrease tariffs by up to 50 percent of the amount previously set in 1930. Because of the RTAA, Roosevelt was able to conduct trade agreements with 19 nations (many of which developing countries). Even after Roosevelt left office, the RTAA served as a precedent to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that has paved the way for trade liberalization across the world.
- FDR proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 which targeted elderly Supreme Court Justices. For every justice over the age of 70 who had served 10 or more years, Roosevelt wanted to appoint up to six new justices. The goal of this proposition was to ensure that others did not strike down elements of his New Deal. His bill ultimately failed and the Supreme Court went on to deem a significant amount of his plans as unconstitutional.
- FDR was a proponent to the notion that the U.S. had a role to fulfill in international relations due to its status as a global power. He adhered to a concept named big stick diplomacy, which refers to the idea that a nation should use diplomacy but have a contingency plan (often involving the military) if things go wrong. Roosevelt also followed a good neighbor policy towards Latin American countries and removed the Platt Amendment which took away Cuban sovereignty.
- People widely regard FDR as a humanitarian because of his efforts to help Americans during the Great Depression. However, many people fail to note that FDR signed an executive order mandating the internment of Japanese-Americans shortly after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese-Americans faced atrocious working conditions and unfair treatment from the guards at the camps. People deemed this unconstitutional in 1944. In 1988, the Reagan Administration issued $20,000 and a formal apology to the surviving Japanese-Americans who had to enter internment camps.
- While Roosevelt’s predecessor Hebert Hoover took the approach of non-governmental intervention when concerning the Great Depression, FDR vocalized his determined plan for the nation. From 1933 to 1944, Roosevelt gave a series of speeches conveyed through the radio (because it was the most popular medium of communication) called fireside chats. During these chats, he gave the American people information on the New Deal, the economy and unemployment during the Great Depression, as well as information about military progress during World War II. FDR’s fireside chats helped to heighten public support for his programs during the Great Depression.
- In February 1933, shortly after FDR became president, he suffered an assassination attempt. Giuseppe Zangara, a disgruntled worker, had a hatred for the wealthy and blamed FDR for making it difficult to make a living. Zangara did not succeed in killing Roosevelt but did hit five people. Mayor Anton Cermak sustained the most serious injury which ultimately led to his death three weeks later. Roosevelt maintained composure and conveyed to the world that he was a fit president amidst the chaos. FDR went on to implement policies that would directly attack the roots of the escalating economic and social problems across both the U.S. and the world.
- FDR was fundamental in the creation of the United Nations even though he died before its official implementation. Roosevelt coined the term to represent the 26 nations that fought to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II. From August to October 1944, Roosevelt and prominent leaders from the U.K., France, China and Russia worked to create a plan that would ensure peace in the world. This comprised of peacekeeping missions and efforts to foster effective international relations. The United Nations officially established on October 24, 1945, six months after Roosevelt’s death.
- FDR dedicated himself to free trade, believing that it would significantly enhance global economics and politics. In 1941, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill drafted the Atlantic Charter that outlined these beliefs. Roosevelt stated that global superpowers must work to adopt policies that would aid the growth of all nations, not just westernized ones. In 1944, at the Bretton Woods Conference, these ideas were integral to the formation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The United States did not adopt the Bretton Woods Agreements Act and enter the IMF until after Roosevelt’s death.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a pioneer for a more egalitarian society that did not solely serve capitalist interests. Through the institution of various programs and legislation of the New Deal, Roosevelt championed the rights of the poor and working class. While Roosevelt did conduct some questionable acts and faced concrete political barriers, his legacy revolves around his tireless efforts to make America better for all. As evidenced in the top 10 interesting facts about Franklin Roosevelt, his idea that “we cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure” still holds true today.
– Jai Shah