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Did Roosevelt's character, upbringing and background make it easy for him to understand the fears and concerns of ordinary Americans?

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Introduction

Franklin D. Roosevelt - Rachel Armstrong September/October 2003 Did Roosevelt's character, upbringing and background make it easy for him to understand the fears and concerns of ordinary Americans? Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882 into a very wealthy family of Dutch and English ancestry. He spent his childhood in Hyde Park, New York leading a comfortable and spoilt life. He was an only child of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. He led a sheltered life as a young boy as a governess educated him privately. He spent his formal education at Groton School, Massachusetts, where he was popular and good at sports. After graduation from school, he went to Harvard University, mixing only with the upper class and in 1904 he gained a law degree, so from this we can understand that he had a good upbringing and was a smart man. In Harvard how ever, he was much more interested by his hobbies, pastimes and social life, and his education tended to take a back seat, but however he got his law degree. He was born into an incredibly wealthy family, and tended to only socialise with those "rich" enough. The family owned a house at Hyde Park, and frequently had extravagant parties. He was brought up into a life of luxury free from hardships, so he would have found it hard for him to understand the suffering and pains of those less fortunate than him. It did not help that he never met them. His upbringing as a young boy would not have helped him to understand the fears of concerns of ordinary people. In 1905 he married his distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt, the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor was much more sensitive than him towards the poor and she worked in the slums of New York with great sensitivity to the underprivileged of all creeds, races, and nations. ...read more.

Middle

People blamed Hoover for America's downfall and people thought anything could be better than Herbert Hoover. Supposing the Wall Street Crash had not happened and America had not fallen into a depression then maybe Hoover would have won the election, but a crisis really does show people's true colours. Eleanor's work to help the homeless and with women's rights also helped Roosevelt in his election chances. The fact that Roosevelt was actually a good caring person who was ready to help those who needed it mostly helped him to win the election. He gave them hope which was exactly what the American people needed at the time. Life did get better for all Americans in the 1930's. How far was Roosevelt responsible for this, or was it due to other factors? During the depression life was bad for most of America, 42% of the population was below the poverty line. People could not afford to eat, let alone pay the mortgage on their houses, so they lost them and ended up building shantytowns and eating from rubbish bins. In 1932 alone 5000 banks went bankrupt, leaving 1000s of people with no money. In 1932 14 million people were unemployed. In November 1932 Roosevelt came to power. The first act he passed was the Emergency Banking Act. He shut all the banks, and appealed to the public to not withdraw any more money, and he also guaranteed that their money would be safe. He did this by way of his famous "fire side chats". He talked to the public on the radio. It made him seem more caring as they actually heard it coming from him, rather than spokes people, and it also reassured them he was telling the truth. When the banks reopened, thousands of people put their money back into the bank. One billion pounds was deposited into the banks. No more banks went under after then. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the end we see that it is the Second World War that really pulls America from the depression. From 1939-42 America was not involved in the war. But at the time it was providing Britain with iron and steel and engine parts. This was very good for the American industry. On the 7th of December 1941 Pearl Harbor happened and on the 11th of December Germany and Italy (Japan's allies) declared war against America. In 1941 twenty thousand planes were built and in 1943 ninety thousand planes were built. American production doubled and unemployment fell to virtually zero. The war really brought upon the disappearance of unemployment, but if the New Deal hadn't happened I don't think America would have been able to cope and probably would have lost the war. It made a solid base for the industry to expand upon. So in conclusion I think life improved for most Americans really, but mostly it helped farmers and those who worked in factories and towns. It also helped elderly people, disabled, unemployed and single mothers. It certainly didn't help women, North American Indians, Blacks and Farm Labourers very much. However I think Roosevelt was mainly a good person who really tried to help people because he cared about them. He focused on the agricultural side, but tried to help as many people as he could, sometimes they did not work perfectly, but I think the New Deal was the best thing a president has ever accomplished, but then again there has never been a crisis to that scale before. He laid foundations for a better America; he gave millions of people a chance to learn a new trade which in turn increased the rate of development in America. The Tennessee Valley Authority certainly helped in the long term and is still in action today, however most of the acts in the New Deal were for emergency short-term relief. I think he had a good balance of both, and the New Deal helped millions, not just during the depression. ...read more.

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