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Franklin D. Roosevelt: First Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt: First Inaugural Address

During the presidential campaign of 1932, with the United States mired in the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for action by the federal government to revive the economy and end the suffering of the thirteen million people who were unemployed. When he took office on March 4, 1933, the national mood was bleak. In his first inaugural address, Roosevelt reassured the nation that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He proposed a New Deal for the people of the United States and promised he would use the power of the executive branch to address the economic crisis.

In his speech Roosevelt criticized the financial community for breeding a culture of greed during the 1920s that led to the economic depression. Declaring that "our greatest task is to put people to work," he proposed to use the government to reinvigorate the economy. He acknowledged that the need for "undelayed action" might require disturbing the "normal balance of executive and legislative authority."

Roosevelt's address helped rally the nation. His call for sweeping actions by the federal government produced a torrent of legislation from Congress in his first hundred days in office. Though the Supreme Court initially struck down many of these acts as unconstitutional, within a few years the Court changed its view. As a result, the federal government greatly expanded its power to regulate the economy. Through Roosevelt's bold initiatives, many U.S. citizens came to view the federal government in a new way—as the catalyst of progressive social change.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationHistorical Legal Documents and Landmark Speeches