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From the Great Depression to World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt guided the United States through challenging times. He sought to help the American people in many different ways, including creating social safety nets for the elderly and the unemployed. In 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act to provide aid to the country’s most senior citizens and others in need.
FDR considered the Social Security Act to be one of his greatest accomplishments. In a 1934 speech to Congress, he said that “I place the security of the men, women and children of the Nation first.” Roosevelt believed that the American people deserved “some safeguard against misfortunes which cannot be wholly eliminated in this man-made world of ours.” He accomplished this goal with the creation of Social Security. Let’s learn more about the man behind these impressive achievements.
FDR had a half-brother
He was the only child of Sara Delano and James Roosevelt, but he was not, however, his father’s only child. James did have a much older son, also named James, from his first marriage to Rebecca Brien Howland. FDR’s brother, nicknamed “Rosy,” was born in 1854 — the same year as FDR’s mother.
By the time FDR was born in 1882, Rosy was already grown up and had a family. He had married into another of America’s leading families when Rosy wed Helen Astor in 1877. FDR and Rosy’s daughter Helen and son James were even close in age. He played with them when Rosy’s family visited Springwood, the family’s estate in Hyde Park, New York.
Collecting stamps was a lifelong passion for FDR
He started up with this hobby around the age of 8. Roosevelt’s mother encouraged this activity, having been a collector herself as a child. When FDR contracted polio in 1921, he turned to his stamps as a distraction during his bedridden days. In fact, he once said that “I owe my life to my hobbies—especially stamp collecting.”
In the White House, FDR found working on his collection a form of stress relief from the demands of his presidency. He even had the State Department send over envelopes it received so that he review the stamps. FDR took an active role in the creation of new stamps as well. He approved more than 200 new stamps during his time in office.
He dropped out of law school
His undergrad studies seemed to be a piece of cake for him. He only took him three years to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard. FDR then enrolled at Columbia University’s school. But he abandoned his legal studies in 1907 after he passed his bar exam. FDR only practiced for a few years before jumping into politics. In 1910, he won his first election to the New York State Senate.
He married his fifth cousin
He married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin once removed, on March 17, 1905. Eleanor was the niece of another of FDR’s distant relatives, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. President Roosevelt actually walked Eleanor down the aisle at her wedding to FDR, filling in for Eleanor’s late father.
FDR’s first attempt at winning a national office was a flop
FDR won the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1920 with James M. Cox, governor of Ohio, as the party’s presidential pick. The pair lost out to Republican Warren Harding and his running mate Calvin Coolidge. Their victory was a decisive one, with Harding taking roughly 60 percent of the popular vote and roughly 76 percent of the electoral votes.
When running for president himself, FDR would score several substantial wins of his own. The 1936 election was perhaps his greatest victory, picking up roughly 98 percent of the electoral votes. His opponent, Republican Alfred M. Landon, only won two states, Maine and Vermont.
He made history when he appointed Frances Perkins to his cabinet
Selected as secretary of labor, Perkins became the first woman to hold a cabinet post in a U.S. presidential administration. She was instrumental in helping Roosevelt with many of his programs, including Social Security. This was the second time FDR had tapped Perkins for a government post. As governor of New York, he picked her to be the state’s labor commissioner.
Roosevelt holds the record for the longest-serving American president
In 1944, FDR was elected to his fourth term. And no one can ever challenge this feat. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment was passed, which limited future presidents to only two terms. The amendment states that “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”
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