Inaugural Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Given in Washington, D.C.
March 4th, 1933
President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:
This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain that on this
day 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 people 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 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.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common
difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values
have shrunk 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; and 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.
And 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 have 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 only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no
vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
Yes, 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 that 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, the moral
stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of
evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, 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 - to our fellow men.
Recognition of that 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, and on
unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This
Nation is asking 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 great natural
Hand in hand with that 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. Yes, 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, the State, and the 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, unequal. It can be helped by national planning
for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of
communications and other utilities that have a definitely public
character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can
never be helped by merely talking about it. We must act; we must act
And finally, in our progress towards 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.
These, my friends, 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
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
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 and parts of the United States of America - 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 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
cannot 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 can be made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know,
ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such
discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the
larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes
will bind upon us - bind upon us all - as a sacred obligation with a
unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times 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
Action in this image - action to this end - is feasible under the form
of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our
Constitution is so simple, so 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 ever seen. It has met every stress of vast expansion of
territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world
And it is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and
legislative authority may be wholly equal - 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, 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
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.
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