by Robert Morrison
January 17, 2009
March 4, 1933
Not since Abraham Lincoln’s first Inauguration in the secession winter of 1860-61 had a President come to power in such a crisis atmosphere. President Herbert Hoover was thoroughly thrashed in the 1932 election. He won just six states (out of forty-eight) and a mere 59 Electoral Votes. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York, had racked up an invincible 472 Electoral Votes. Roosevelt’s mandate was deep and broad. His fellow Democrats had rolled over their opponents in elections for Congress, Governorships, state legislatures. There were even candidates for Recorder of Wills in Sleepy Eye County, Minnesota who were eager to grasp FDR’s coattails.
As the winter deepened, so did the economic crisis. President Hoover was increasingly desperate. Banks were failing daily. The government had to put armed guards on U.S. Mail Trucks. Then, just days before the Inauguration, the President-elect faced an assassination attempt while riding in an open car in Miami. FDR was unhurt, but he calmly ordered the Secret Service to take the mortally wounded Mayor of Chicago to a hospital.
When Roosevelt finally took the oath in Washington, all eyes in the nation were on him.
His rich baritone rang out: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” His words were like an electric charge running through the country.
Many of his policies were wrong. Many failed. Still, Roosevelt’s indomitable confidence, his commanding presence, his unquestionable courage are what made millions of Americans love and support him. They honor his memory to this day.
FDR’s confidence was not in himself alone. He concluded his inspiring address with these words: “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.”
Thus did the nation’s most liberal President conclude this First Inaugural Address. He alone would deliver three more Inaugurals.