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Great American Speeches: President Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

November 22, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

In times of need, when things are tough, the leaders of American always respond. Following the devastation of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, which began a long period of healing for the Nation. In the darkness of the Cold War, with the world on the brink of total annihilation, President John F. Kennedy rallied the nation imploring, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Following his election, with the nation gripped by economic depression, President Roosevelt delivered his iconic first inaugural address.

President Roosevelt began his presidency by stating, “first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.” President Roosevelt believed first and foremost in the strength, perseverance, and courage of the American people. He believed that as long as we stood with each other, and held bravery as one of our highest values, we could overcome anything. For a nation devastated by economic depression, this was not only a vote of confidence, it was a call to action.

He went on to say, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. 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.”

President Roosevelt knew deeds held power over words. For America to escape the Great Depression, it needed to get to work. President Roosevelt used his first inaugural address to begin this work. His words inspired not just the citizens of the United States, but lawmakers in Congress as well. Five days after his speech, on March 9, the Emergency Banking Act was signed, and the nation took its first steps towards withdrawing from economic depression.