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Franklin D. Roosevelt
First Inaugural Address, 1933
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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 critical days.

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 endure.

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 problems.

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 stern 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.
 

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