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
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.
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Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 presidential inauguration.
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 rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed
through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have
admitted their failure, and have 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
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
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,
so that there will be an end to speculation with other people's
money; and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
These 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 accomplishment.
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 and 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 cannot 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 armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership
of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack
upon our common problems.
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 public procedure.
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 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.