Did Roosevelt’s upbringing, background
and character make it easy for him to understand the concerns and fears of ordinary Americans?
Roosevelt’s upbringing, background and character in some cases helped him understand the concerns and fears of ordinary people but there were a number of factors which made it harder.
Roosevelt’s background and upbringing, as a child didn’t help him understand, feel, the concerns and fears that ordinary Americans were going through and experiencing. This was too his wealthy, privileged and pampered lifestyle. His mother Sarah Delano Roosevelt was devoted towards him, she enjoyed looking after him, made him feel that he could do anything, this also meant that he spent most of his time with and around adults. However, Roosevelt did have a formal relationship with his father. Roosevelt and his father, Mr James Roosevelt, explored the countryside’s, rides on horses, visiting in and around the city, doing fatherly things.
Furthermore, Roosevelt’s early education made it even harder, as Franklin was being taught at his home by a personal tutor. This meant that he didn’t mix with other children and was isolated from them. Moreover, Franklin turned into a more thoughtful person and had time, as a child, to learn from his parents and other adults that he was surrounded by. Then sadly at the age nine, Franklin saw the horrifying effects of his father’s illness, Polio. For Franklin this put a lot of pressure on him, being a young child it broke his heart to see his father in this much pain. While this tragic event was happening, Franklin, being a distant figure, never revealed himself and showed no emotion. Having spent the first part of his childhood with adults and having a personal tutor to teach him, Franklin made a manger leap. He left home at fourteen years of age, to go to study at one of the top boarding schools, Groton, Massachusetts. The headmaster, Endicott Peabody, encouraged the boys, throughout their stay at the school, to help the less fortunate in society. He also wanted the boys to be able to ‘stand on their own two feet’ and to be independent. As Franklin started school he had many problems, as when being taught at home he didn’t mix with children, so this was the first time, Franklin was around a big group of children. Franklin never felt part of things, as he was never mixing or involved with group activities.
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Franklin moved from boarding school to Harvard University, he was very successful but, being Franklin he had one disappointment. From being surrounded by children at boarding school he made another great leap, which was that he now had to stay with the pupils twenty four hours a day. This was not a place for ‘outsiders’ like Franklin, but this made Franklin even more determined to stay on. The university had many sports activities, one being baseball. Franklin really enjoyed baseball, but he never actually played it, he was the one who would run and collect the balls. Franklin now a young adult moved to Columbia University Law School. He studied law and later became a law clerk. Franklin started to gain confidence and became a member of an exclusive club, where they were editors of the schools newspaper, which forwards changes to the university improvements. By becoming more confident he meant up with a young girl the same age as him. Her name was Eleanor and she was much like Franklin. She had come from the same rich, wealthy background, her father died when she was just young. Eleanor became frightened of everything but soon got sense of contact and freedom when she moved to the university at the age of seventeen. Soon after, Franklin and Eleanor decided to get married on the 17th March 1905, despite Franklin’s mother’s objections. Franklin’s mother became very distant from Eleanor. On their honeymoon, Franklin changed as Eleanor described. He started to sleep walk, was ‘high’ and Eleanor wanted a close interment relationship but Franklin wasn’t having any of it.
As Franklin changed and became an adult and had finished school and all the qualifications, an ex-president had a big influence on him. This helped Franklin to understand the concerns and fears of ordinary Americans. The ex-president, Theodore Roosevelt was very popular with the public and well thought of, he was a distant cousin of Franklin’s. During the First World War he went overseas and visited two battlefields, he talked to soldiers and other people out there. He returned and was then nominated for vice president. His campaign opened a window to get out and talk to the ordinary people of America. However, Franklin followed in the footsteps of his distant cousin, and in 1910 Franklin was elected as a Democrat Senator of New York. Franklin wasn’t given the right to be a Republican for many reasons.
Franklin led an upstate group against the corrupt Democrats chiefs who operated from their headquarters, ‘‘Tammany Hall’’ in New York. They thought Franklin was a snob, unwilling, rich, spoiled and stated a quote, ‘drown him before he grows up’.
Franklin meant another person who influenced him and built his political strength, his name was Louis Howe. Howe helped Franklin, to one extreme to become a president. Howe loved to sail and as people said ‘knew where all the bodies where’. Franklin decided to join the navy and loved it, it helped him build up his reputation but his relationship was down as he didn’t the didn’t see much of each other. In 1913, Franklin was promoted to Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson, after Franklin helped him in his presidential campaign of 1912. Franklin was very active, ambitious and rebellious at this time, as he was still growing up. He enjoyed his social life and parties on the other hand Eleanor did not, so Franklin sent Eleanor on longer holidays to Campobello Island. Later on Franklin had an affair with one of his girlfriends called Lucy Mercer, because Franklin became more attractive to women. Eleanor was broken hearted but agreed to stay with him for the sake of their six children they had planned for there family and his political career, which would be damaged by divorce. Franklin’s mother said he would lose his career what ever they would have done.
In 1920, Franklin was nominated as Vice-President. The campaign failed but helped him understand ordinary people better because part of the campaign was to talk to other people, so he becomes close to people, selling himself towards them. Sense of concerns, seeing what the people problems were. Franklin visited a camp which helped him to interact with other people, the boys scouts. Sadly Franklin Picked up a very bad illness, Polio. So in 1921, Franklin was forced to retire from politics temporarily because of his illness. Mother and Franklin’s wife stayed with him twenty-four hours a day, very positive and supportive, Franklin tried to put on a brave face but as the illness was so bad; it was hard not to look very ill. Franklin’s attitudes towards his illness, was that he couldn’t believe that it was happening to him and he had loads of energy but wasn’t able to let it out.
Afterwards, Eleanor tried to help his political career whilst he was ill, but it didn’t work and Franklin was back to an isolated feeling again and couldn’t go out and see or to talk to any of the ordinary people. However, having this trapped energy, Franklin started to regain strength but doctors still told him he wouldn’t be able to walk again, but Franklin didn’t want to hear that. Doctors hung him on harnesses, using belts, to help him walk. After a while Franklin didn’t speak to Eleanor. The time he had was spent recounting his life while he was in so much pain.
Franklin thought that he could walk so he tried to run away and he found a run down house boat. He set off and started to relax and go swimming in the river and do a bit of fishing. Also he was there to exercise and to release the trapped energy inside of him. To get over the body that used to be his but took longer than imagined.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin wanted to reform. Republicans turned down his ideas for shorter working days, compensation for work injuries and help for the sick, old and farmers. After the ‘Crash’ he started the ‘Temporary Emergency Relief Administration’ and Franklin formed expert committees to plan aid for the unemployment. Re-elected in 1930 with an increase majority and in 1932 had impressed voters so much that he became President.
There were many bad things in his life that should have stopped him from moving forward, but he used it for the better and he learnt fro m his mistakes. The main turning point in his life was the Polio attack and by opening the Warm Springs clinic for the sick it helped him to build his confidence. Also the many people that influenced him in his life also help him in a big way to understand the concerns and fears of the ordinary Americans.