Did Roosevelt's upbriging and background make it easier for him to understand the concerns of the American people?

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Victor Shih        6064

1. Did Roosevelt’s upbringing, background and character make it easy for him to understand the concerns and fears of ordinary Americans? Explain your answer.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States of America, was often referred to as the “Greatest Man in the World”. However, it would seem that his upbringing and background would not have qualified him for that title until he was stricken with polio in 1921 when he was able to empathize with ordinary Americans and understand their fears and concerns.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was born into a very wealthy family. He was an only child and he was spoiled by his mother, whilst living in a 188 acre family estate, enjoyed playing polo and going sailing. He had been to Europe 15 times and lived an extremely luxurious lifestyle, something ordinary Americans would all envy. As a child, he was educated by private tutors until the age of fourteen, when he attended the famous public school of Groton and later furthered his studies at the prestigious Harvard University, where he studied history and law. However, he was more inclined towards his social life than his studies, for instance, during his university years, while everyone at Harvard was hard at work, he spent his time sailing and enjoying life, so he was popular without needing to excel himself academically. After finishing his studies he worked briefly for a law firm and later, he entered politics as a Democrat in 1910. He was able to find his own election and had a recognizable name due to his relations with the former 26th American president Theodore Roosevelt, and gradually climbed the pole of state politics and finally became a part of the New York Senate. Despite his high standing position in society, people who met him saw him as “serious” and “not particularly charming” as he rarely smiled. He also had the unfortunate habit of throwing his head up, this plus his towering figure, gave everyone the impression that he was looking down at them which showed a sign of arrogance. In spite of all this, Roosevelt was still living a happy life and there was nothing to trouble him as he never witnessed or experienced what it was like to be living the life of “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. He was a high standing person in society and therefore only mingled with other privileged and rich Americans who were also living good lives so he would not be able to relate to the problems and fears of ordinary Americans at this point in his life.

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The turning point of his life came in 1921 when he was stricken with the deadly disease of polio which paralyzed him from the waist down. Throughout his life, Roosevelt had always been rich and happy and lived a luxurious life. When he caught polio, he finally realized and went through the hardships and suffering of ordinary Americans who were in poverty. This was because polio paralyzed him and he lost control over his legs so he could not move and do whatever he wanted anymore. This did not discourage him however, in fact, this experience allowed him to ...

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