Great inaugural addresses: Franklin Roosevelt

Constitution Daily looks back at some of the most noteworthy presidential inauguration speeches. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speeches dealt with imminent national crises and served to inspire millions.

First inauguration. Source: White House.

Roosevelt became president in 1933 as the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s speech was heard by millions of people on the radio and set the tone for his administration.

Highlights from 1933 inaugural address

President Roosevelt set the stage for his New Deal program, which started with a four-day bank holiday on the day after the inauguration.

Quote: “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Link: Full text of 1933 inaugural address

Highlights from 1937 inaugural address

In 1937, Roosevelt was the first president to take the oath in January, after the 20th Amendment moved inauguration up from March (it also changed the date for the beginning of the new Congress).

The nation was still mired in the Great Depression and war clouds were gathering in Europe. Roosevelt also talked about the 150th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention.

Quote: “At that convention, our forefathers … created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution. Today, we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same objectives.”

Link: Full text of 1937 inaugural address

Highlights from 1941 inaugural address

President Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term in office, which eventually led to the 22nd Amendment limiting a president to two terms or 10 years in office. He spoke at length about the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and democracy.

Quote: “In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.”

Link: Full text of 1941 inaugural address

Highlights from 1945 inaugural address

President Roosevelt’s final inauguration was brief, and because of wartime conditions it was held outside at the White House. There were no parades or large celebrations. The president would pass away three months later.

Quote: “We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.”

Link: Full text of 1945 inaugural address

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