Roosevelt's Upbringing and His Understanding of the Concerns and Fears of Ordinary Americans


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Roosevelt's Upbringing and His Understanding of the Concerns and Fears of Ordinary Americans


'Roosevelt was the first president to master the technique of reaching
the people directly over the radio. In his fireside chats he talked
like a father discussing public affairs with his family in the living
room. As he spoke he seemed unconscious of the fact that he was
addressing millions.'

William Leuchtenberg

Roosevelt was one of America's most popular presidents, he was the
first that reached out to them and through the radio talked to them
directly. But what made this man the 'father' figure of Leuchtenberg
quote? What gave him the ability to empathise with America's ordinary
citizens. On this surface his upbringing and life before presidency
would appear to make him unable to understand.

Roosevelt was an only child born to two rich parents and spent the
first years of his life at their beautiful but isolated estate called
springwood. He had very little contact with other people while growing
up and had virtually none with children his own age. He was even
privately tutored rather than sent to school and was very spoilt by
his family.

When he reached the age of 14 he was finally sent to a preparatory
school where he would come into contact with more people his age.
After graduating he enrolled at Harvard university where he majored in
history and earned fair grades. Roosevelt then entered Columbia
University Law school but he had very little interest in law and left
before he graduated. After working for a while as a legal secretary at
a law firm, he quit his job as he didn't need to work to support
himself and became involved in politics.

This relatively sheltered and padded lifestyle would make may people
think it unlikely that he ever could empathise with the general public
as his own life had been so different. He ha everything money could
buy and he had all the financial security that they lacked. However,
beneath the polished exterior of Roosevelt's life there were many

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challenges and sorrow which may have given him the insight into the
life of the poor American.

Although Roosevelt was brought up by a very affluent family, he was
taught from an early age that, with the money he had, came a
responsibility to the poor. He never forgot that lesson especially
when he became president.

The first half of Roosevelt's life, though sheltered, cushioned and
protected, must also have been very lonely. Denied of the
companionship of someone his own age when growing up he must have felt
the boredom and yarning of those who are ultimately alone. He felt the
loneliness of the american people, and their fear that nobody cared
and nobody would help them.

Roosevelt never learned completely how to interact with people his own
age and this became evident during his school years. The other boys
viewed him as 'sad and lonely'. However, despite this, instead of
moaning and complaining, Roosevelt put a brave face on his misery and
when writing home to his mother, lied to please her:

'Dear mama, getting on with the other fellows. No black marks for
lateness yet'

What make Roosevelt strongest though, was Roosevelt's struggle against
his own body. While taking a holiday at Campobello Island New
Brunswick in the summer of 1921, Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis,
better know as polio. The road to recovery was a long and painful one
taking all of Roosevelt's great will. Although he valiantly continued
to fight and win over his crippling illness, he still ended up
crippled from the waist downwards, unable to walk without aid or heavy
leg braces.

Roosevelt's illness caused him to become stronger, he had overcome a
great personal trial and he saw his own disability as a parallel with
the 'humiliations and defeat of depression America', he had conquered
his own devils and he was confident that he could conquer America's.

Roosevelt's birth did not make it easy for him to understand the fears
of ordinary Americans, but his trials after the initial few years gave
him a sense of sympathy for them. He saw the loneliness of the people
and after feeling some of his own he was able to understand having
been through it. His struggle against polio made him even more
conscious of the struggle of depression America, he saw the loss of
hope and the suffering of the people and he was able to empathise it
with his own struggles when hope was bare and the world was difficult.


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