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Franklin Delano Roosevelt Biography: New Deal, WWII

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born January 30th, 1882 in New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inspired to pursue a life of politics after his fifth cousin – Theodore Roosevelt – ascended to the presidency in 1901. After marrying his fifth cousin once removed, Eleanor Roosevelt, he began his climb that ultimately got him to the White House. His New Deal politics promised to alleviate the strain from the ongoing Great Depression. He spent much of his third and fourth terms fighting the Second World War. Just a month before the war ended in Europe, FDR died and left a legacy as one of the best presidents in history. In this video, learns more about the life and career of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

He was President of the United States longer than anyone. Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about the life and accomplishments of FDR.

Early Life

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born January 30th, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. His political aspirations developed when his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, ascended to the presidency after William McKinley’s death in 1901.

Marriage to Eleanor Roosevelt

In 1905, he married his fifth cousin once removed, Eleanor Roosevelt, and soon used his Harvard degree to begin practicing law.

Early Political Career

In 1911, he ran as a Democratic state senator in his home state, and won handily thanks to his family’s status. Roosevelt’s smart politics eventually earned him admirers nationwide, and a second term. After being appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, he created the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Wins and Losses

In 1914, Roosevelt attempted and failed to run for a U.S. senate seat for New York State, and six years later he unsuccessfully ran for vice president alongside James M. Cox. Despite these disappointments, his political career flourished.


On a personal level, his extramarital affairs threatened his marriage. He and Eleanor decided to remain political partners, if not romantic ones.


By 1921, FDR was diagnosed with polio. To salvage his political career, he trained himself to walk short distances with braces and a cane and was never seen using his wheelchair, despite paralysis.

Governor of New York

Roosevelt then won the governorship of New York in 1928, after mending fences with the Democratic Party due to his differing opinions. He enacted various progressive social policies, and won a second term two years later thanks to the Great Depression, which many blamed on failed Republican policies. Roosevelt, however, set his sights on the White House.

Presidential Campaign

In his campaign, FDR promoted New Deal politics to ease the economic strain. He gained support from special interest groups, like unions, African Americans and the White South. His charisma and upbeat outlook elevated him above incumbent Republican, Herbert Hoover, and in November 1932, Roosevelt was elected the 32nd President of the United States. This was a turning point in American politics: for several decades, the Democrats remained the dominant party.

The New Deal

When he was inaugurated on March 4th, 1933, one quarter of the country’s workforce was jobless. As president, Roosevelt applied his New Deal policies to promote relief, reform and recovery. Unemployment then dropped drastically and the Gross National Product rose. Roosevelt kept his population informed with radio addresses known as “fireside chats.”

Second Term

However, he was not immune to criticism: detractors feared increasing socialism and frivolous government spending. Regardless, Roosevelt won a second term in 1936, but was unable to pass much significant legislation.

WWII and Churchill

By 1938, poor political choices resulted in the Democrats losing Senate and House seats. When World War II erupted the next year, the U.S. declared support for Britain and France, but maintained they would not fight. Roosevelt subsequently built a strong relationship with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Historic Third Term

As the war progressed, public support turned in favor of intervention and the Americans built up their military. In 1940, FDR won an historic third term as president in the midst of this conflict, as the two-term limit had not yet been established.

Pearl Harbor and Joining the War

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941, the U.S. officially joined the war. Roosevelt, Churchill and Communist Russia’s Joseph Stalin formed the “Big Three,” and forged plans to beat Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Failing Health

Roosevelt soon spearheaded the idea for the United Nations to prepare for post-war relations. However, in March 1944, he secretly learned that the stress of his job had left him with ailments like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

Fourth Term

Despite this, he and his vice presidential candidate Harry S. Truman ran for FDR’s fourth term, and won. Roosevelt traveled the world to end the war despite his ill-health, and proved his mental capacity was unaffected.


But, on April 12th, 1945, the world was shocked when he suffered a stroke and died. His legacy was fulfilled when, less than a month later, the war in Europe ended.


In his twelve years in the White House, Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country through some of its most difficult times. For that reason, he is consistently ranked among the best presidents in history.

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