Study Guide

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in The Lend-Lease Act

By The United States Congress, signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A Roose-tinted Childhood

From day one, the U.S.A. was a nation that, above all else, valued "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It prided itself on breaking with the traditions of class-based rule that characterized the history of the Old World by instituting a system that democratically elected its leader instead of constantly being ruled by an aristocracy whose gene pools were shallower than a kiddie pool.

However, that doesn't mean the U.S. avoided developing its own version of royalty. These are the people who struck gold (both figuratively and literally) early on and just kept raking in the dough, eventually to become some of wealthiest and most powerful families in the country.

One of these families happens to be the Roosevelts.

Already an incredibly influential clan by the time Franklin Delano burst into this world kicking and screaming on January 30, 1882, the Roosevelt name all but guaranteed his fate on the national and international stage.

As a child, FDR experienced top-of-the-line boarding schools, international travel vacations, flouncy clothing, and foreign language education. As he matured into his young adult years, he continued to enjoy all of the benefits of being a young man from a very rich background when he embarked upon a notably unimpressive academic career at Harvard.

However, his mediocrity in school seemed to have little-to-no impact on his career-oriented pursuits (funny how privilege works). In fact, it was while he was in college that he discovered his true passion for government work (which was only rivaled by his taste for the ladies) and officially became a member of the Democratic Party.

Kissing (Up to) Cousins

FDR wasn't the first in his family to enter the circus of U.S. politics. His cousin, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Jr. had already climbed to the top of the ladder of influence by the time FDR was in his early 20s, serving as president from September 4, 1901 (after the assassination of William McKinley) until March 4, 1909. Big T, however, happened to be a member of the rival Republican party, but this difference in opinion had little impact on the relationship between the two cousins. They remained friends and colleagues throughout their lives.

Speaking of relationships between was around this time that FDR sealed the matrimonial deal with Anna Eleanor Roosevelt—also a distant cousin. The operative word here is distant, meaning that it was, like, just fine that they got married. (If you think about it, aren't we all really just distant cousins of...uh...each other?)

Anyway, despite their closeness in age and "background," the union between FDR and Eleanor, as she was commonly known, was a chilly one. Although they manage to produce an impressive six-children family, they were never super-tight compadres, and they lived in separate houses for most of their marriage.

Blasting Ahead! (Sort of)

Just before his thirtieth birthday, FDR officially entered the world of public leadership, a move that was met with great success, considering he was a newcomer. In 1910, he won a seat in the New York State Senate, a position to which he was re-elected two years later. Encouraged by his professional accomplishments, FDR campaigned for election as Vice President in 1920, sharing the ballot with James M. Cox. Unfortunately for them, they lost to their Republican opponent, Calvin "don't lose your cool" Coolidge. (Source)

This setback was the beginning of a less-than-great period for FDR. For one, he had a pretty significant loss under his belt. For two-sies, a few months after his very public defeat, the poor guy contracted polio while on vacation in Canada. At only thirty-nine years of age, he would be reliant on the aid of a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Back in the Saddle

What do you say to a saddle that is feeling down? Giddy up!

Which is exactly what FDR did. After a stint of recovery and seclusion, FDR was back in the game as a force to be reckoned with. During the following eight years, he worked tirelessly at securing his reputation as a public powerhouse and political superman.

In 1932, all of that hard work paid off when he defeated Herbert Hoover in the presidential elections. Even though Herbie Hoove didn't have much of a chance (he was generally disliked by the majority of the American population), FDR's victory was nonetheless well won. On March 4, 1933, he entered the White House to begin the longest career as president of any president in history.

He's a Talker

FDR was a renowned public speaker, and while he's not necessarily known for being concise he is known for being an empathetic, strategic, and relatable public figure.

This was in part due to his insistence on addressing the people of the U.S. directly about his policies and official decisions. He is especially famous for his so-called "Fireside Chats" which were a regular radio address he made to the country regarding the state of the nation. It was in these programs that he outlined concepts such as the New Deal, a plan for moving out of nationwide economic depression and into financial stability, and his reservations about isolationism in the face of WWII. During his second term in office, the latter issue became especially relevant, as the German army began to overtake Europe and the Japanese army invaded China.

Predicting the unavoidable involvement of the U.S. in another world war, FDR worked to soften the steadfast isolationist sentiment that fenced off the U.S. from the rest of the globe. It was this concern about the future safety of the country that motivated his interventionist methods—methods that also lead to his development of the Lend-Lease Program.

Pearls to Swine

Despite its importance in the history of U.S. foreign policy, Lend-Lease was actually pretty short-lived. Enacted on March 11, 1941, it enjoyed a hearty eight-ish months before it basically became completely in, like, totally moot.

That's because on December 7 of that same year, the Japanese air force took it upon themselves to bomb the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory.

However, because of Lend-Lease and FDR's preemptive military draft, the national wartime production industry had been chuggin' right along preparing its defenses. So, when FDR declared war on the Japanese the following day, the U.S. was more than ready to take a stand in WWII.

A Long Haul

The majority of FDR's third and fourth terms were dominated by the immensity of the second world war. Although aging and ailing, he continued to travel extensively meeting, with Allied leaders like Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in locations all over the world. On his travels he not only negotiated the difficult issues of military threat, but he also advocated for humanitarian issues the looked to a future time after the war had ended.

Sadly, FDR would not complete his fourth term nor see the end of the war, but he would live long enough to witness the D-Day invasion on the 6th of June, 1944—the military tactic that altered the course of the war in favor of the allies.

After an extensive illness, FDR died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.

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