Franklin D. Roosevelt was not only the 32nd President of the United States, but his administration was unequivocally the best in American history. At first glance, one might be tempted to dismiss such a bold and succinct claim. However, an objective examination of the accomplishments of this presidency, and their continued influence on the modern era in conjunction with an examination of the enormous problems this president had to overcome and it becomes difficult to dispute such a bold claim of greatness.
Let us first consider the indisputable facts of this administration: FDR saw the United States through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was the largest attack on American soil at the time, and remained so up until September 11, 2001. His leadership during this time of uncertainty, along with his admirable and powerful rhetoric, prepared the “greatest generation” both psychologically and spiritually for the inevitable conflict that would literally decide the fate of the world.
Moreover, his social and economic policies galvanized the American population transforming it (seemingly overnight) into the greatest industrial and military machine in the history of all mankind, and arguably seeing it through one of the most uncertain economic turns in American history in the form of the Great Depression. The fact that America claimed victory against the greatest threat to humanity in the form of Nazism (and rid the world of a mortal threat) with its infrastructure intact no-less, can be directly attributed to FDR’s leadership as commander-in-chief. That accomplishment in and of itself is enough to fairly argue for FDR’s place among the top three U.S. presidents. However, the cold hard historical facts of his presidency do not end there.
The United Nations as we know it today in no small part owes its existence to the Roosevelt administration. While the influence of the U.N. and its effectiveness are consistently debated today no one can deny that the U.N. has been instrumental in mediating a number of world conflicts and currently plays a pivotal role in international relations. Therefore, had Roosevelt taken a different position with respect toward American involvement with the United Nations, world history would have undoubtedly played out very differently.
It is also established historical fact that Roosevelt was the only U.S. president to serve more than two terms in office. This fact alone is one of extreme distinction. Many people fail to acknowledge the enormous stresses associated with the office of the president. This is for the most part due to the fact that people are usually preoccupied critiquing his performance. Four years in the public eye under incredible scrutiny is enough to make any normal person go insane. Eight years of such scrutiny would take its personal toll on any person irrespective of how “thick-skinned” they are. Twelve years is almost unthinkable, and when one considers what those twelve years consisted of for this particular president who literally had the fate of the world resting upon his decisions, it is astounding that he was able to keep his wits about him, let alone be the effective and iconic leader he was.
Those were the more uncontroversial facets of this president. However, his controversial “New Deal” policies in conjunction with such provisions such as the Social Security Act as well as the forcible internment of Japanese Americans during WWII are among the more hotly debated aspects of the Roosevelt administration. That being said, the consequences of these decisions (and others) are still being felt to this day. For better or for worse these more controversial presidential acts only serve to solidify FDR’s place in history. Much in the same way controversial decisions of more recent presidents such as Ronlad Reagan and George Walker Bush did.
Ironically though, it is possible to argue that FDR’s greatest contribution and that which makes him perhaps the greatest president of all time was the one that was never realized. FDR was the only president to draft a “Second Bill of Rights” which guaranteed various economic rights to every American such as: “The right to a useful and remunerative job, The right to adequate protections against the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, The right of every family to a decent home, etc.” FDR died before he could bring the Second Bill of Rights into reality. One cant help but wonder what kind of America the Second Bill of Rights would have created for those of use who currently have none of Roosevelt’s rights guaranteed by our government.
Love him or hate him, FDR’s influence and service to our country is undeniable. His presence and legacy is indelibly etched into the fabric of American history. More than a fighter, more than a Democrat, FDR was a revolutionary in policy and politics. For that among other things he deserves at the very least our respect. As for myself, he has not only my respect but for what he accomplished and was about to accomplish he also has my undying admiration.
If you like writing about U.S. politics and the 2012 campaign, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.