First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt
SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1933
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into
the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the
present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to
speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink
from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation
will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. 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 every dark hour of our
national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding
and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am
convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties.
They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to
fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government
of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange
are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial
enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce;
the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem
of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only
a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken
by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers
conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much
to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have
multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes
in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of
the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness
and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated.
Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court
of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern
of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed
only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which
to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted
to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know
only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and
when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of
our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social
values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy
of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation
of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.
These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our
true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves
and to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success
goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public
office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards
of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct
in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust
the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence
languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness
of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without
them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation
asks for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable
problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in
part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as
we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this
employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize
the use of our natural resources.
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of
population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale
in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those
best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite efforts to
raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase
the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically
the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes
and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State,
and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically
reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today
are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national
planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications
and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are
many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely
by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two
safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be
a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there
must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must
be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress
in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall
seek the immediate assistance of the several States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own
national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international
trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity
secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor as
a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no
effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but
the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery
is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration,
upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United
States--a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation
of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is
the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will
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-- the neighbor who respects
his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with
a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have
never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not
merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we
must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good
of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is
made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing
to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible
a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging
that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with
a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this
great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government
which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple
and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by
changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That
is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring
political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress
of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife,
of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative
authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before
us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action
may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures
that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These
measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience
and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring
to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two
courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical,
I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.
I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis--broad
Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power
that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion
that befit the time. I can do no less.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the
national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious
moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stem performance
of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and
permanent national life.
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of
the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a
mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline
and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument
of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May
He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.