FDR's Legacy

It was 60 years ago this month that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, died while on a badly needed vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia. It was somewhat of a second home for the genial aristocrat from Hyde Park, New York, and a haven for himself and other victims of the once virulent scourge of poliomyelitis.

Though maimed in body, FDR was a paragon of mind and spirit and, most importantly, of conscience. At the time of his death of a cerebral hemorrhage in that spring of 1945, Roosevelt had overseen the recovery of his country from the bleakness of the Great Depression and was on his way to leading it to victory over fascism in World War II. On the eve of American involvement in that crusade, Roosevelt had set as our nation's war aim the securing of what he called the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom of all persons to worship God in their own way; freedom from want; freedom from fear.

FDR elaborated on those ideas a few scant months before his death, when he delivered his fourth inaugural address, in which he enumerated the following rights:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to enjoy good health.

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

The right to a good education.

It is the tragedy of our time that almost all these rights, like the previously espoused Four Freedoms, have either been abrogated or are under siege in the current governmental clime in which the few are rewarded at the expense of the many. But these rights, and the animating ideas behind them, remain the legacy of all Americans.


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