“...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

March 4, 1933, the first inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the midst of the Great Depression, the nation waits to hear President Roosevelt's inaugural address.

At 1 pm, grasping the right arm of his son, James, Franklin Roosevelt "walked" slowly to the rostrum of the Capital to take the oath of office as 32nd President of the United States. His inaugural speech took 15 minutes. None who heard it would ever forget it. With a strong, unwavering voice, President Roosevelt dismissed "the money changers" whose greed had spoiled "the Temples of our civilization." He promised that the Great Depression which had convulsed the world would be defeated, and that "this great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper."

And then came the words that rivaled any spoken in our history in affecting the soul and spirit of America:

"...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 that moment, the diversity of America united in common purpose. The new President's first act was to close the banks as he confronted the collapse of the financial system. He called the Congress into emergency session. For the next 100 days, Americans watched the miracle of democracy legislate a constitutional revolution directed to the building of a just society where the welfare of all citizens would be our government's concern. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times as our President.

Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel