The New Deal also created various social programs aimed at helping people get back to work, but also to ensure all those in society were taken care of. Roosevelt created the Social Security Act in 1935 that would provide monthly payments to everyone over the age of 65, and would provide benefits to surviving spouses and disabled people, as well. The Social Security Act is still in existence today and still provides income and assistance for millions of Americans. One writer calls Social Security one of Roosevelt's most enduring legacies. He writes, "Roosevelt's other profound legacy, the transformation of the federal government into an instrument of income redistribution through Social Security, which established the responsibility of the state for the welfare of its elderly citizens" (Walker). It was relatively unheard of at the time, and it is only one of Roosevelt's enduring legacies.
Many of these programs were initiated by Roosevelt and his advisors and then sent to Congress, while Congress passed and modified several acts on their own. Much of this depended on Roosevelt closely working with Congress and selling his policies to the American people, which he did with weekly radio broadcasts that he called "Fireside Chats." Many of these "chats" have been preserved on tape and in print, and they show a man who was determined to end the depression and put Americans back to work, no matter the cost or difficulties involved. Many critics of Roosevelt and his policies felt his policies were too liberal or socialistic, and that he put the country in deficit spending - now a common occurrence. As the country began to slowly emerge from the Great Depression, production and jobs did begin to increase, but it was the war in Europe that really brought the country out of the depression. Because of events in Europe and Asia, Roosevelt also had to deal with foreign policies and increasing world tensions on the eve of World War II.
During the New Deal, Roosevelt again ran for the presidency and was overwhelming re-elected in 1936. He continued his work domestically, but began to broaden his foreign outlook as well. He was again re-elected in 1940, after Germany invaded Poland, which marked the beginning of World War II in Europe. In 1940, Roosevelt ran as a peace candidate who promised to keep the country out of the war (Abbott 162). That would all change of course, at the end of 1941.
THE GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY
Roosevelt's foreign policies were complex and vastly important to the nation. In 1933, as a reaction to trade difficulties with Central and South America, Roosevelt created the Good Neighbor Policy, which "emphasized cooperation and trade rather than military force to maintain stability in the hemisphere" ("Good Neighbor Policy"). Throughout the early 1930s, Roosevelt continued to work for foreign peace and against intervention by one country into another.
Roosevelt first spoke of his good neighbor policy during his inaugural address, so it was not a new idea that erupted as the situation in Europe deteriorated. He says, "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" (Roosevelt 16). In a 1935 speech, he continued this theme. He states, "The primary purpose of the United States of America is to avoid being drawn into war. We seek also in every practicable way to promote peace and to discourage war" (Roosevelt 55). Many critics of Roosevelt felt the policy was isolationist and kept the United States from interacting with European nations during a time of crisis, but at the time, most people supported the policy and hoped to keep out of the war in Europe.
While American remained a neutral ally in the first years of World War II, Roosevelt recognized the thereat Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party represented to Europe and democracy. In May, 1941 he says of Hitler, "Adolf Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that, unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western Hemisphere will be in range of the Nazi weapons of destruction" (Roosevelt 272). He recognized Hitler was a great threat, but still felt Europe could combat him on their own, without American intervention. In his attempt to keep Hitler from world domination, he gave aid to Great Britain with sea escorts to help ensure supplies arrived safely, and providing them with weapons and ammunition (Roosevelt 280). In another address in October 1941, he notes, "For example, I have in my possession a secret map made in Germany by Hitler's government by the planners of the new world order. It is a map of South America and a part of Central America, as Hitler proposes to reorganize it" (Roosevelt 295). Roosevelt recognized Hitler's menace, but it was the Japanese who would force him to actually put the United States in jeopardy in Europe and Asia.
PEARL HARBOR and the AFTERMATH
On December 7, 1941, at approximately 8am (Hawaii Time), the Japanese attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States was sucked into World War II. Roosevelt's speech to Congress called the attack "a day which will live in infamy" (Roosevelt 301), and it is still recognized as one of the darkest days in American history, outdone only by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The attacks occurred in the early afternoon Washington time. Immediately, Roosevelt drafted a speech he would deliver to Congress the next day - December 8. In it, he asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and because Japan was an ally of Germany, Germany as well. This brought the U.S. directly into World War II. In the speech, he noted Japan had launched several simultaneous attacks against other Pacific nations such as Hong Kong and Midway Island. He says, "Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation" (Roosevelt 303). However, Roosevelt did not simply ask Congress to declare war and then did nothing to support it.
As expected, Roosevelt quickly had a broad plan that would help ensure American superiority in machinery and manpower. In a December 9 address to the nation, he noted he was asking any industry involved in warfare machinery or production to work seven days a week at increased production. He also urged companies to build more new plants quickly, so they could add to the production of wartime necessities, such as planes, ships, ammunition, and transportation. At first, rationing did not take place, but later during the war, Roosevelt would implant food and some material rationing, such as gas and rubber, to ensure there were enough raw materials to service the armed forces, first (Roosevelt 308-309). By early 1942, however, rationing was in place, and the American people were getting used to doing without everything from sugar to butter and nylon stockings.
Roosevelt went into action immediately after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and showed the nation a strong and determined man who was resolute in righting the wrong against the American people. He brought the country into the war as a safety measure, and then ensured American production industry was up to the challenge. He also met with allied leaders many times in an attempt to forge peace, but he would not live to see it. Perhaps his most controversial reaction to the Pearl Harbor attacks was the incarceration of all Japanese and Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast. Shortly after the war began, Japanese and American citizens were rounded up and herded to internment camps located throughout the inland Western United States. It is one of the darkest memories of the war, and even today, many Japanese-Americans are bitter about this chapter in U.S. history.
Of course, the U.S. went on to dominate the war, winning the European war in on "V-E Day," May 8, 1945, when Germany finally signed a surrender in Berlin. Victory in the Pacific came on August 15, 1945, ("V-J Day") when Japanese Emperor Hirohito signed the articles of surrender on board a U.S. ship anchored off the coast of Japan. Unfortunately, the end of the Pacific war was precipitated by the dropping of two nuclear bombs, one on Hiroshima on August 6, and another on Nagasaki on August 9. Roosevelt did not live to see peace; he died in April 1945.
In conclusion, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of the most loved and admired American…