Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Reflecting on Roosevelt’s presidency, his biographer commented that FDR “brought the United States through the Great Depression and World War II to a prosperous future. He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees.” Join Active Minds as we look at the life and leadership of one of our nation’s most admired presidents and examine how his legacy is currently viewed (for better or worse) through the lens of our recent challenges.

Key Lecture Points

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was president during two monumental events of the 20th century—the Great Depression and World War II. Understanding the man and his presidency gives insights into 20th century history that are applicable to our own time.
  • Roosevelt’s personal comeback from the devastation of polio set the stage for a political comeback that launched him into the White House in 1932.
  • Roosevelt set the standard for the “first 100 days” of a Presidency when he took office in 1933. His “New Deal for the American People” aimed at “relief, reform and recovery” to address the issues of the Great Depression, including bank failure, unemployment, and the devastation of the Dust Bowl.
  • Roosevelt led the Allies during WWII, first by supporting the British war effort at a time when isolationist policies predominated in the US, and later, after Pearl Harbor, by presiding over the largest industrial war effort in the history of the nation. Although he did not live to see the end of the war, Roosevelt’s leadership was largely responsible for its success.
  • Although immensely popular, Roosevelt is not without his critics. Critics argue that Roosevelt’s creation of broad government-run programs expanded the role of the federal government such that it undermined the ability of private enterprise to flourish and expand the American economy. They also emphasize other controversies from his Presidency, including the “court packing” effort and the internment of Japanese during WWII.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the major legacies of the FDR presidency?
  • Eleanor Roosevelt was an influential historical figure in her own right. What were her major accomplishments?
  • Historians often debate, is history the result of events or of great personalities. Is FDR an example of a great man creating history? Or was he a man who found himself caught up in it?

Reflective Questions

  • What are your memories of Franklin Roosevelt? Describe how your family perceived him as a President and as a man?
  • What are your memories of the period from 1932-45, when Roosevelt was President?

More to Explore

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Click here

Books For Further Reading

  • Alter, Jonathan. The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope. Simon & Schuster. 2006. 414 pages. Biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt with emphasis on the first 100 days of his presidency.
    Click here to order
  • Miller, Nathan. FDR: An Intimate History. Doubleday & Company. 1983. 563 pages. Comprehensive biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
    Click here to order