First inaugural Address
(Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Mar. 4, 1933.
Brief introduction to the speaker:
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) Roosevelt became president in 1933. The United States was then in the grip of a world-wide business depression. Roosevelt used his powers to create jobs and to help those who needed helps. Many of Roosevelt's ideas of government are still part of the law of the land.
This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction in the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impeIs. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly Nor need we shrink from honestly facing the conditions facing our country today This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper So first of all, let me express my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, un justified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and 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.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours, we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen, our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtaiIment of income, the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce, and the savings of many years and thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equal and great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
And yet, our distress comes from no failure of substance, we are stricken by no plagUe of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and
were not afraid, we have so much to be thankful for Nature surrounds us with her bounty and human, efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the patten of an outworn tradition. Faced by a failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money Stripped of the lure of profit by which they induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortation, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision, the people perish.
Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civiIization. We may now restore that temp1e to the ancient truths. A measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social value, more noble than mere monetary profits.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative efforts, the joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us, if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered on to, but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of a false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profits, and there must be an end to our conduct in banking and in business, which too of ten has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrong-doing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty on honon on the sacredness of our obligation, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This nation is asking for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we take it wise1y and courageously It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.
Hand in hand with that, we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution in an effort to provide better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.
Yes the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the value of the agricultural product and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing losses through fore closures of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the federal, the state, and the local government act forthwith on the demands that their costs be drastically reduce. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are of ten scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for, and supervision of all forms of transportation, and of communications, and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by mere1y talking about it. We must act, we must act quickly.
And finally in our progress toward a resumption of work, we require two safeguards against the return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people-s money; and there must be provisions for an adequate but sound currency.
These, my friends, are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session, detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the 48 states.
Through this program of action, we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order, and making income balance outflow Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration upon the inter-dependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States of America - a recognition of the old and the permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery it is the immediate way it is the strongest assurance that recovery will endure.
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor. The neighbor who resolutely respects himself, and because he does so, respects the rights of
others. The neighbor who respects his ob1igation, and respects the sanctity of his agreement, in and with, a world of neighbor.
If I read the temper of our people correctly we now realize what we have never realized before, our inter-dependence on each other, that we cannot merely take, but we must give as well. That if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discip1ine, no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective. We are all ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline because it makes possible a 1eadership which aims at the larger good. This, I propose to offet we are going to larger purposes, bind upon us, bind upon us all, as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly, the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems. Action in this image, action to this end, is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from my ancestors. Our constitution is so simple, so practical, that it is possible always, to meet extraordinary needs, by changes in emphasis and arrangements without loss of a central form, that is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
And it is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority wi1l be fully equal, fully adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for underlay action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity in the clearest consciousness of seeking all and precious moral values, with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike, we aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life.
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy The people of the United States have not failed. In their need, they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline, and direction under leadership, they have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift, I take it.