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Friday’s Leaderly Quotation: President Roosevelt’s Message to America

November 26, 2010
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Last week’s leaderly quotation came from President Abraham Lincoln, who served two terms during the most divisive period of U.S. history. Some 70 years later, a Democrat president was handed an economy in tatters and a society that was under massive stress and uncertainty. President Franklin Roosevelt, who possessed his own human foibles, conceived and pushed forward numerous programs and new legislation that enabled America to advance as a society and economy.

A gifted communicator, Roosevelt regularly kept Americans up to date on his administration’s progress through what became known as his fireside radio chats. It was his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, which drew 100,000 people to Washington, D.C., where many wept openly as they sought reassurance and hope, and where the new president immediately began to put into place his New Deal, which has been vividly remembered since he uttered these words:

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 of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days….

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded, a 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.


(Note: This is a portion of FDR’s address)

Take a few moments to reflect upon these questions:

1) How does FDR’s approach to national leadership differ from more recent presidents?

2) Do you believe that FDR practiced what is called Servant Leadership?

3) What can countries such as Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain (each with its own specific challenges) learn from President Roosevelt?


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