Presidential Greatness: An
Analysis of FDR’s Presidency
Presidential greatness has many aspects, but it primarily means demonstrating effective, inspiring, visionary, and transformational leadership in times of great challenge and crisis. There have been many effective presidents, but there have only been a few great presidents because simply being effective and successful does not make one a great president. The distinction between presidential effectiveness and presidential greatness is that presidential greatness can only be attained when the exceptional leadership, visionary, and transformational accomplishments of a president have a long-term positive impact and change the course of American history. Franklin D. Roosevelt achieved presidential greatness because he led the United States out of the Great Depression and to victory in the Second World War. His transformational accomplishments during his four terms as president changed the course of American history because his comprehensive reform of the economic and banking systems revived the shattered economy and generated decades of prosperity. Also, his visionary leadership during the Second World War transformed the United States from an isolationist nation into a global superpower. FDR was also one of the nation's great presidents for a number of other reasons. He was the first and only president to be elected to an unprecedented four terms in office, (Some believe he might have even reached a fifth term if he hadn’t died in office) handing over the presidency to Harry Truman, He reacted bravely to the national emergency of Pearl Harbor, which entered the country into World War II, As mentioned before, he resurrected the country from the Great Depression, and he was the nation's only disabled president. His presidency accomplished a great deal, and many of the programs he implemented while in office are still in place today. Franklin Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, his parents were James Roosevelt and Sara Delanor Roosevelt, and he was an only child (of his father's second marriage. He did have a much older brother who died in 1927). He did not attend traditional elementary schools or other schools because he had tutors and his parents taught him until he entered preparatory school. His parents were extremely wealthy; some considered them the "aristocracy" of American society. One biographer writes about his very privileged youth and notes, "His first trip to Europe, at the age of two, years, was followed by annum voyages between his eighth and fourteenth birthdays. At fourteen he was enrolled in the fashionable Groton School, and four years later he entered Harvard College" (Abbott 1990). He attended Groton from 1896 to 1900, and received a BA in history from Harvard in only three years, from 1900 to 1903. He studied law at Columbia University in New York where he never received a degree, but still passed the bar in 1907. He practiced law in New York City for three years, and entered politics in 1910, when he ran for the New York State Senate and was elected. From then on, most of his life was spent in politics and public service (Biography 2007). In 1905, he married his distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (the niece of former president Teddy Roosevelt), and they had six children; unfortunately, one died in infancy. The survivors included Anna, born in 1906, James in 1907, Elliott in 1910, Franklin, Jr. in 1914, and John in 1916. His wife, known as Eleanor, would become one of the most famous first ladies in her own right, and is given much of the credit for Roosevelt re-entering politics after he contracted polio in 1921 Abbott 1990). Roosevelt was re-elected to the New York Senate in 1912, and began to receive national attention from the Democratic Party during this time. He supported Woodrow Wilson in the presidential election of 1912 and as a reward, Wilson named Roosevelt the...
Cited: Abbott, Philip. “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition.” Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. Retrieved on 7 Dec. 2009.
Gergen, David. “Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership Nixon to Clinton.” New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. Retrieved on 10 Dec. 2009.
Editors. "Good Neighbor Policy: 1933." U.S. Department of State. 2007. Retrieved on 7 Dec. 2009.
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