Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 at his parents' estate in Hyde Park, New York. His parents were members of the New York aristocracy. His father, James, was a country gentleman who made money in railroads and coal. His mother, Sara, was a strong-willed woman who adored her only child and remained a central figure in his life until her death in 1941. His father died in 1900. FDR�s childhood in Hyde Park instilled in him a love of the Hudson Valley, farming and rural people. His lifelong interest in forestry helped shape some of the policies and programs of the New Deal, particularly the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
After being educated at home by private tutors, FDR entered Groton, an elite private school in Massachusetts, in 1896. Endicott Peabody, the head of the school, became an important influence in FDR�s life instilling in him a strong sense of civic responsibility. One of the most significant events while he was at Groton was a talk given by his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired and went on to emulate in his political career. FDR was neither an outstanding student nor athlete, but he entered enthusiastically into life at Groton and did well enough to go on to Harvard in 1900. At Harvard he put much of his energy into his social life and extracurricular activities. His greatest accomplishment was to become president of the Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. FDR was a handsome, charming, fun-loving young man to whom women were strongly attracted. In 1902, he began to take notice of Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore�s niece and FDR�s distant cousin, whom he had seen occasionally during his childhood but who was now a tall, willowy, intelligent young woman. They fell in love and, after a year�s delay granted to his resistant mother, were married in New York City on St. Patrick�s Day, 1905. Her father being dead, President Theodore Roosevelt gave his niece away. Despite the later difficulties in their marriage, FDR had chosen well and ER and FDR remained committed partners throughout their lives.
After their honeymoon in Europe, FDR and ER moved into one half of a double townhouse given to them as a wedding present. Sara occupied the other half, which opened into theirs. FDR resumed his studies at Columbia University Law School, which he had begun in the fall of 1904. He never completed the courses needed to receive an LL.B. degree, but passed the bar examination at the end of three years and began a law practice in New York City. In 1910, FDR won a seat in the New York State Senate. It would be the only election in which he carried the Republican stronghold of Dutchess County where his Hyde Park home was located. As a freshman senator, he led a challenge to the Tammany bosses who sought to elect one of their own to the United States Senate (senators from New York were at that time elected by the state legislature). Although the uprising failed in the end, FDR won wide renown for his efforts. He introduced legislation to protect farmers that successfully passed and headed the Senate Forest, Fish and Game Committee where he began to emerge as a leader in conservation.
After the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, FDR accepted an appointment as assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held for the next seven years. A lover and student of the sea and ships from his childhood on, FDR vigorously argued within the administration for a better prepared navy and for a more militant stance in crises than Wilson was willing to take. When the United States finally entered World War I in 1917, FDR worked to ensure that the navy had a vital role to play in the war. In the making of peace at the end of the war, FDR absorbed President Wilson�s internationalist ideals, as well as the lessons of Wilson�s failure to bring the United States into the League of Nations. His experience during this period helped produce the combination of idealism and realism that he later brought to...
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