Franklin D. Roosevelt
First Inaugural Address
Saturday, March 4, 1933
I AM certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into
the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which
the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the
time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need
we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This
great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will
prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only
thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified
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. 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 curtailment 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; the savings of many years in thousands of
families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of
existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a
foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
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 still much
to be thankful for. Nature still offers 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 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 pattern of
an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only
the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to
induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted
to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know
only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and
when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our
civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The
measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social
values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy
of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral
stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of
evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if
they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to
minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success
goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public
office and high political position are to be valued only by the
standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an
end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to
a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small
wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on
honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on
unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation
asks for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no
unsolvable problem if we face it wisely 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 natural resources.
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of
population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national
scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land
for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite
efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the
power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by
preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through
foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by
insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith
on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped
by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered,
uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and
supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and
other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many
ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by
talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two
safeguards against a 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 provision for an adequate but sound currency.
There 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 several States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own
national house in order and making income balance outgo. 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
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 interdependence of the various elements in all
parts of the United States--a recognition of the old and 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 the 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 obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in
and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have
never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not
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 discipline no progress is
made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing
to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes
possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to
offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a
sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this
great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of
government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution
is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet
extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss
of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved
itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world
has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of
foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative
authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before
us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed
action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures
that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.
These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of
its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional
authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two
courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical,
I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I
shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the
crisis--broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as
great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded
by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion
that befit the time. I can do no less.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the
national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old 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 and 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.
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He
protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Second Inaugural Address
Wednesday, January 20, 1937
WHEN four years ago we met to inaugurate a President, the Republic,
single-minded in anxiety, stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves
to the fulfillment of a vision--to speed the time when there would be
for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of
happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple
of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action,
tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did
those first things first.
Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we
recognized a deeper need--the need to find through government the
instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the
ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at
their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and
bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those
moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make
science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do
this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic
forces and blindly selfish men.
We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has
innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered
inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not
admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as,
after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master
epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common
welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of
In this we Americans were discovering no wholly new truth; we were
writing a new chapter in our book of self-government.
This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the
Constitutional Convention which made us a nation. At that Convention our
forefathers found the way out of the chaos which followed the
Revolutionary War; they created a strong government with powers of
united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond
individual or local solution. A century and a half ago they established
the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and
secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.
Today we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same
Four years of new experience have not belied our historic instinct. They
hold out the clear hope that government within communities, government
within the separate States, and government of the United States can do
the things the times require, without yielding its democracy. Our tasks
in the last four years did not force democracy to take a holiday.
Nearly all of us recognize that as intricacies of human relationships
increase, so power to govern them also must increase--power to stop
evil; power to do good. The essential democracy of our Nation and the
safety of our people depend not upon the absence of power, but upon
lodging it with those whom the people can change or continue at stated
intervals through an honest and free system of elections. The
Constitution of 1787 did not make our democracy impotent.
In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all
power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic
powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The
legend that they were invincible--above and beyond the processes of a
democracy--has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten.
Our progress out of the depression is obvious. But that is not all that
you and I mean by the new order of things. Our pledge was not merely to
do a patchwork job with secondhand materials. By using the new materials
of social justice we have undertaken to erect on the old foundations a
more enduring structure for the better use of future generations.
In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit.
Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have
always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now
that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose
builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the
long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line
that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are
fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a
morally better world.
This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success
as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power
by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.
In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily
condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We
are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can
be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.
For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change
we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.
Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an
ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With
this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve
our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring
Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead?
Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way?
For "each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth."
Many voices are heard as we face a great decision. Comfort says, "Tarry
a while." Opportunism says, "This is a good spot." Timidity asks, "How
difficult is the road ahead?"
True, we have come far from the days of stagnation and despair. Vitality
has been preserved. Courage and confidence have been restored. Mental
and moral horizons have been extended.
But our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary
circumstances. Advance became imperative under the goad of fear and
suffering. The times were on the side of progress.
To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled
conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already
reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!
Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.
Let us ask again: Have we reached the goal of our vision of that fourth
day of March 1933? Have we found our happy valley?
I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great
wealth of natural resources. Its hundred and thirty million people are
at peace among themselves; they are making their country a good neighbor
among the nations. I see a United States which can demonstrate that,
under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be
translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown,
and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of
But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of
millions of its citizens--a substantial part of its whole
population--who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what
the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.
I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the
pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.
I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under
conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century
I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to
better their lot and the lot of their children.
I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory
and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other
I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you
in hope--because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in
it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American
citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern; and we will
never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as
superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the
abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for
those who have too little.
If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not
listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on.
Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men
and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women
who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well. They
will insist that every agency of popular government use effective
instruments to carry out their will.
Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the
whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all
the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when
the people receive true information of all that government does.
If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these
conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They
will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore,
strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace.
Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly
changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces that
drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal
ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and
political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as
To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in
dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of
the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public
need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in
In taking again the oath of office as President of the United States, I
assume the solemn obligation of leading the American people forward
along the road over which they have chosen to advance.
While this duty rests upon me I shall do my utmost to speak their
purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine guidance to help us each
and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide
our feet into the way of peace.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Third Inaugural Address
Monday, January 20, 1941
ON each national day of inauguration since 1789, the people have renewed
their sense of dedication to the United States.
In Washington's day the task of the people was to create and weld
together a nation.
In Lincoln's day the task of the people was to preserve that Nation from
disruption from within.
In this day the task of the people is to save that Nation and its
institutions from disruption from without.
To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause
for a moment and take stock--to recall what our place in history has
been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we
risk the real peril of inaction.
Lives of nations are determined not by the count of years, but by the
lifetime of the human spirit. The life of a man is three-score years and
ten: a little more, a little less. The life of a nation is the fullness
of the measure of its will to live.
There are men who doubt this. There are men who believe that democracy,
as a form of Government and a frame of life, is limited or measured by a
kind of mystical and artificial fate that, for some unexplained reason,
tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future--and that
freedom is an ebbing tide.
But we Americans know that this is not true.
Eight years ago, when the life of this Republic seemed frozen by a
fatalistic terror, we proved that this is not true. We were in the midst
of shock--but we acted. We acted quickly, boldly, decisively.
These later years have been living years--fruitful years for the people
of this democracy. For they have brought to us greater security and, I
hope, a better understanding that life's ideals are to be measured in
other than material things. Most vital to our present and our future is
this experience of a democracy which successfully survived crisis at
home; put away many evil things; built new structures on enduring lines;
and, through it all, maintained the fact of its democracy.
For action has been taken within the three-way framework of the
Constitution of the United States. The coordinate branches of the
Government continue freely to function. The Bill of Rights remains
inviolate. The freedom of elections is wholly maintained. Prophets of
the downfall of American democracy have seen their dire predictions come
Democracy is not dying.
We know it because we have seen it revive--and grow.
We know it cannot die--because it is built on the unhampered initiative
of individual men and women joined together in a common enterprise--an
enterprise undertaken and carried through by the free expression of a
We know it because democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists
the full force of men's enlightened will.
We know it because democracy alone has constructed an unlimited
civilization capable of infinite progress in the improvement of human
We know it because, if we look below the surface, we sense it still
spreading on every continent--for it is the most humane, the most
advanced, and in the end the most unconquerable of all forms of human
A nation, like a person, has a body--a body that must be fed and clothed
and housed, invigorated and rested, in a manner that measures up to the
objectives of our time.
A nation, like a person, has a mind--a mind that must be kept informed
and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and the
needs of its neighbors--all the other nations that live within the
narrowing circle of the world.
And a nation, like a person, has something deeper, something more
permanent, something larger than the sum of all its parts. It is that
something which matters most to its future--which calls forth the most
sacred guarding of its present.
It is a thing for which we find it difficult--even impossible--to hit
upon a single, simple word.
And yet we all understand what it is--the spirit--the faith of America.
It is the product of centuries. It was born in the multitudes of those
who came from many lands--some of high degree, but mostly plain people,
who sought here, early and late, to find freedom more freely.
The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It
is human history. It permeated the ancient life of early peoples. It
blazed anew in the middle ages. It was written in Magna Charta.
In the Americas its impact has been irresistible. America has been the
New World in all tongues, to all peoples, not because this continent was
a new-found land, but because all those who came here believed they
could create upon this continent a new life--a life that should be new
Its vitality was written into our own Mayflower Compact, into the
Declaration of Independence, into the Constitution of the United States,
into the Gettysburg Address.
Those who first came here to carry out the longings of their spirit, and
the millions who followed, and the stock that sprang from them--all have
moved forward constantly and consistently toward an ideal which in
itself has gained stature and clarity with each generation.
The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved
poverty or self-serving wealth.
We know that we still have far to go; that we must more greatly build
the security and the opportunity and the knowledge of every citizen, in
the measure justified by the resources and the capacity of the land.
But it is not enough to achieve these purposes alone. It is not enough
to clothe and feed the body of this Nation, and instruct and inform its
mind. For there is also the spirit. And of the three, the greatest is
Without the body and the mind, as all men know, the Nation could not
But if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation's body
and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know
would have perished.
That spirit--that faith--speaks to us in our daily lives in ways often
unnoticed, because they seem so obvious. It speaks to us here in the
Capital of the Nation. It speaks to us through the processes of
governing in the sovereignties of 48 States. It speaks to us in our
counties, in our cities, in our towns, and in our villages. It speaks to
us from the other nations of the hemisphere, and from those across the
seas--the enslaved, as well as the free. Sometimes we fail to hear or
heed these voices of freedom because to us the privilege of our freedom
is such an old, old story.
The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our
first President in his first inaugural in 1789--words almost directed,
it would seem, to this year of 1941: "The preservation of the sacred
fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government
are justly considered. . .deeply,. . .finally, staked on the experiment
intrusted to the hands of the American people."
If we lose that sacred fire--if we let it be smothered with doubt and
fear--then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so
valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the
spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest
justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of
In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose
is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy.
For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.
We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we
go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fourth Inaugural Address
Saturday, January 20, 1945
MR. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand
and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be
simple and its words brief.
We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a
period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage--of our resolve--of
our wisdom--our essential democracy.
If we meet that test--successfully and honorably--we shall perform a
service of historic importance which men and women and children will
honor throughout all time.
As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the
presence of my fellow countrymen--in the presence of our God--I know
that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail.
In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just
and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for
total victory in war.
We can and we will achieve such a peace.
We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately--but
we still shall strive. We may make mistakes--but they must never be
mistakes which result from faintness of heart or abandonment of moral
I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that
seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: "Things in life will not
always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the
heights--then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The
great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is
forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and
the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend."
Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument; it is not perfect
yet. But it provided a firm base upon which all manner of men, of all
races and colors and creeds, could build our solid structure of
And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons--at a
fearful cost--and we shall profit by them.
We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own
well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We
have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in
We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human
We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that "The only way to
have a friend is to be one."
We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and
mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the
understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from
The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our
people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows
for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has
become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.
So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly--to see the
way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow
men--to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.
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