Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR)
Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country for twelve years, he never saw the peaceful prosperity he worked to create. Years of disease, stress and constant cigarette-smoking took their toll. In March of 1945, Roosevelt traveled to his resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest. On 12 April, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died at the age of 63.
FDR's legacy is immense. He led the nation through two of the greatest crises in its history, he expanded the power of the presidency, and he created new agencies that transformed the federal government and, in the process, its relationship with its citizens. Alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, many consider him to be one of the influential presidents in American history.
Ultimately, FDR was not trapped by the privileges and opportunities of his patrician upbringing. Instead, he found the confidence and optimism with which to lead the nation through two great crises. A consummate politician, he pulled the strings of government by giving everyone what they needed—the press, the people, and the Congress. He was not without his shortcomings—the internment of Japanese-Americans, and the failure to prevent the Holocaust chief among them—but he is remembered as a great president because he became what Americans needed most: an optimistic, decisive, and able leader, who could both inspire and get things done.
In the end, much of his success seems to have stemmed from his upbeat personality and from his ability to play the political game. As a friend observed, Roosevelt picked politics for his career, and enjoyed it, "just as one enjoys a game that one has always liked and learned to play well."45 The fruits of this game were beyond measure. Shortly after his death, the New York Times said, "Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House."46