FDR’s Inaugural Address

Speaker: Franklin
D Roosevelt
Delivered On: 3/4/1933
Place: Washington, D.C.
Subject: Presidents — United States —
Inaugural addresses.
Audio/Video Available:

Description: Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes administer the constitutional oath of office
to Franklin Delano Roosevelt as it occurred on March 4, 1933. President Roosevelt’s
inaugural address follows.
President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends: This is a day of national consecration,
and 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 pre-eminently 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 failures
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

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
conditions. 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 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 values 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 accompanied 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 national resources.

Hand in hand with this, we must frankly recognize the over-balance 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.

These 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, to point in 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

It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the
various elements in and 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 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 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 possibly a leadership which aims at a larger good.

This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will hind upon us all
as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed

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.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these 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 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

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 will 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!

Scroll to Top