History Coursework #1
Did Roosevelt’s upbringing, background and character make it easy for him to understand the concerns and fears of ordinary Americans?
During the Depression in the 1930s, there were a number of concerns and fears faced by ordinary Americans. The Depression was caused by the Wall Street Crash in 1929, and it had brought many negative effects. In the cities, the unemployment rate rapidly increased and the average hourly wage in manufacturing industries fell from 59 cents in 1926 to 44 cents in 1933. This resulted in people becoming homeless, as they failed to repay their mortgage payments after losing their jobs. In the rural areas, there was a serious drought in the South and the Midwest between 1930 and 1936 – known as the Dust Bowl. This forced many farmers to migrate into the cities in search of work and better land to farm. Roosevelt’s upbringing, background and character would have helped him understand the concerns and fears of these people to a certain extent; however, this was limited.
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To a certain extent, Roosevelt’s upbringing helped him understand the concerns and fears of ordinary Americans. The fact that he was pampered by his mother as a child would not have made it easy for him to understand since he had a completely different life style as compared to the ordinary Americans at the time. He would not have known what it felt like to not get what you always want as he lived a very privileged life and was greatly sheltered especially since he was the only child in the family. The fact that he was taught at home by private tutors until he was fourteen also could have made it unlikely for him to understand the ordinary Americans, because it was possible that he had become ignorant towards the world and towards people with different social statues. However, the inspirations he got from his teachers as a child to help the less fortunate would have encouraged him to try and understand these people as well as to provide assistance to them in the future.
Roosevelt’s background was another factor which limited his understanding of the concerns and fears of the American society. First of all, Roosevelt was from a very privileged and wealthy family. This would have made it difficult for him to comprehend the living circumstances of the less wealthy people since he had always lived a financially secure life and had never experienced such situations himself. He had also received a very high level of education throughout his whole life as he went to a famous public school called Groton, and then to Harvard – America’s top university. This would not have helped him understand the worries of the ordinary Americans because most people in American could not afford such privileges. However, he had caught a deadly disease called polio, which had put him in a desperate situation much like the lives of the ordinary Americans. This would have helped him understand the difficulties in life and hearten him to provide assistance to the less fortunate.
Roosevelt’s attempts to understand the ordinary Americans were also helped by his overall character. He gave the impression that he enjoyed meeting people, as he was said to have the “common touch.” His friendly personality would have shown the Americans that he scared about their problems and was willing to help them out by gaining their trust and raising their confidence. He was also relatively optimistic, which would have provided people with hope and inspiration to persevere through the Depression. However, he rarely smiled and had an unfortunate habit of throwing his head up. This gave others an impression that he was looking down on them, creating an arrogant and supercilious image.
In conclusion, although Roosevelt’s past and privileged background limited his understand of the public, the deadly disease of polio had taught him what it feels like to be in such a desperate and distressing situation. The illness had changed his perception towards the world, as in the past he was a typical wealthy aristocrat, whereas after overcoming his disease he began to understand the feeling of hardship and opened his eyes to the lives of the less fortunate. His easygoing and optimistic character also made it easy for him to approach and understand the problems faced by the ordinary Americans.