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The Great Depression in the United States was the worst and longest economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. It lasted from the end of 1929 until the early 1940’s. Beginning in the United States, the depression spread to most of the world’s industrial countries, which in the 20th century had become economically dependent on one another. The Great Depression had quick declines in the production and sale of goods and a sudden and severe rise in unemployment. In 1933, at the worst point in the depression, more than 15 million Americans were unemployed. Starting the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, the son of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. He attended Groton, an impressive preparatory school in Massachusetts, and received a BA degree in history from Harvard in only three years. In 1905, he married a distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt next moved to New York City and studied law at New York's Columbia University. He passed the bar examination in 1907 and left school without finishing his law degree. For the next three years he practiced law with a major New York City law firm. He entered politics in 1910 and was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat. Roosevelt was reelected to the State Senate in 1912, and supported Woodrow Wilson's candidacy at the Democratic National Convention. Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913 as a reward for his support, a position he held until 1920. Roosevelt's popularity and success in naval affairs resulted in him being nominated for vice-president by the Democratic Party. However, Republican Warren Harding got into the presidency, and Roosevelt returned to private life.
In the summer of 1921 Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis, which is infantile paralysis. Despite efforts to overcome his crippling illness, he never regained the use of his legs. With the encouragement and help of his wife, Eleanor, and political close friend, Louis Howe, Roosevelt resumed his political career. In 1928 he became Governor of New York. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. In Chicago in 1932, Roosevelt won the nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for president. He then campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery, and reform. His activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by seven million votes.
Roosevelt took on immediate actions to initiate his “New Deal”. To stop depositor panics, he closed the banks temporarily. Then he worked with a special session of Congress during the first "100 days" to pass recovery legislation, which set up alphabet agencies such as the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to employ young men and the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) to support farm prices. Other agencies assisted business and labor, insured bank deposits, regulated the stock market, subsidized home and farm mortgage payments, and aided the unemployed. These measures revived confidence in the economy. Banks reopened and direct relief saved millions from starvation. Another aspect of the New Deal legislation followed in 1935 including the establishment of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) which provided jobs not only for laborers but also artists, writers, musicians, and authors, and the Social Security act which provided unemployment compensation and a program of old-age and survivors' benefits. Roosevelt defeated each of his next three candidates running for the presidency becoming the only American president to serve more than two terms.
By 1939 Roosevelt was concentrating more and more on foreign affairs with the outbreak of war in Europe. New Deal reform legislation diminished, and the harms of the Depression would not fully go away until the nation mobilized for war. When Hitler attacked Poland in September 1939, Roosevelt stated that, although the nation was neutral, he did not expect America to remain inactive in the face of Nazi aggression. As a result, he tried to make American aid available to Britain, France, and China and to obtain an amendment of the Neutrality Acts which rendered such assistance difficult. He also took measures to build up the armed forces. With the fall of France in 1940, the American mood and Roosevelt's policy changed dramatically. Congress enacted a draft for military service and Roosevelt signed a "lend-lease" bill in March 1941 to enable the nation to furnish aid to nations at war with Germany and Italy. America, though a neutral in the war and still at peace, was becoming the "arsenal of democracy", as its factories began producing as they had in the years before the Depression. The Japanese exercised a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Four days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Roosevelt became the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He moved to create a "grand alliance" against the Axis powers through "The Declaration of the United Nations," January 1, 1942, in which all nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a separate peace and pledged themselves to a peacekeeping organization, which is now the United Nations. He gave priority to the western European front and had General George Marshall, Chief of Staff, plan a holding operation in the Pacific and organize an expeditionary force for an invasion of Europe. The United States and its allies invaded North Africa in November 1942 and Sicily and Italy in 1943. The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in France, June 6, 1944, were followed by the allied invasion of Germany six months later. By April 1945 victory in Europe was certain.
The endless stress and strain of the war literally wore Roosevelt out. By early 1944 a full medical examination showed serious heart and circulatory problems. During a vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died two and 1/2 hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 63 years old. His death came on the eve of complete military victory in Europe and within months of victory over Japan in the Pacific. President Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of his estate at Hyde Park, New York.

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