Useful Notes: Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR in one of two pictures of him in his wheelchair. Doesn't make him any less awesome.

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 — April 12, 1945) was the longest serving President in American history, serving three full terms and starting his fourth when he died. He served from 1933 to 1945, taking over for Herbert Hoover and making way for Harry Truman after his death, and he was the tenth President from the Democratic Party. No other President had even won a third term, and thanks to the 22nd Amendment, no President since will be able to challenge his length of service (barring the very unlikely event of the 22nd being repealed). Roosevelt led the country through The Great Depression and World War II, and his domestic reforms and foreign policy accomplishments have forever changed the United States.

He's consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the greatest Presidents in American history, next to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Tropes Present in FDR's Legacy

  • Bring It: In a speech given in his re-election campaign, he made an open statement about the wealthy backers of his challenger (he cracked down on wall street to try to correct the actions that caused the stock market crash of 1929), he said this to the big businesses who opposed him:
    We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred!
    • How about this one from the 1940 campaign:
    I consider it a public duty to answer falsifications with facts. I will not pretend that I find this an unpleasant duty. I am an old campaigner and I LOVE a GOOD FIGHT!
  • Canine Companion: Fala, a Scottish Terrier. So famous that FDR discovered during one vacation that his cruise's crew was cutting off pieces of Fala's hair for themselves as souvenirs. Fala is so famous that he has a statue in the FDR Memorial.
  • Deadpan Snarker: FDR was famous for using this against opponents who criticized him for taking Fala abroad on state business. He actually had to stop several times because his audience were laughing so loudly.
    These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog!
  • Determinator: Standing was an immense chore for him, and walking was even more of one, but he forced himself to do both of these because in his mind, being seen as disabled would ruin his credibility.
  • Friendly Enemy: FDR and Wendell Willkie, his opponent in the 1940 Presidential election. This stemmed from several things: their being Not So Different in their attitudes towards American intervention in World War II, Willkie being a Graceful Loser and encouraging Republicans to accept Roosevelt's reelection (which alienated him from more conservative Republicans). Roosevelt even used Willkie as an Ambassador-at-Large during his third term. Both Franklin and Eleanor spoke highly of Willkie and eulogized him upon his death in 1944.
  • Insult Backfire: FDR was from one of the wealthiest families in New York, yet it was America's wealthy who hated him more than any other Americans. A wealthy socialite once called him "a traitor to his class", which was overheard by the press and became so widely quoted that everybody knew the insult. And since this was The Great Depression, when the wealthy weren't held in such high regard, the insult made FDR even more popular among the general public.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, and his children, her cousins, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Theodore Roosevelt Jr., hated FDR and Eleanor both. FDR and Theodore became political rivals in the '20s, both running for Governor of New York (albeit during different years) and constantly sniping at each other. Alice was particularly obsessive, once telling a reporter that "I'd rather vote for Hitler" than Franklin.
  • One of Us: FDR was really, really into stamp collecting. He owned over one million stamps. He even designed a few sketches for the Postal Department.
    • He was also into design to some degree; he made a fairly significant change to the design of the reverse of the one-dollar bill (flipping the positions of the reverse and obverse of the Great Seal and adding the legend "The Great Seal of the United States" under it) that still stands today. Here's a picture of the order making the change.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When he consented to be wheeled into the House chamber to address a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945, and even referred to his leg braces at the start of the speech, his audience was shocked. Six weeks later he was dead.
  • Permanent Elected Official: What his critics accused him of trying to become when he ran for a third and later a fourth term, which was very controversial in its time; the tradition of presidents serving no more than two consecutive terms dated back to George Washington. It's no coincidence that the 22nd Amendment was pushed through so quickly almost immediately after his death.
  • Rousing Speech: He gave at least a few. His first inaugural speech as well as his speech the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks are widely considered to rank among the greatest American speeches.
  • Throw It In: FDR had speechwriters, but he would often go over their speeches and make his own revisions. Sometimes he'd even ad lib while he was making the speech. One of his most famous quotes is an example of this. In his speech to Congress requesting them to declare war on Japan, the final draft read, "December 7, 1941. A date which will live in world history." FDR wisely realized that accidentally sounded like he approved of Japan's sneak attack of Pearl Harbor, so instead he said, "December 7, 1941. A date which will live in infamy."

FDR in fiction

  • The play (and subsequent film) Sunrise at Campobello feature Ralph Bellamy as a young FDR and chronicle his early struggles with polio.
  • He appears in the musical Annie.
    • Played in the film version by Edward Herrmann, who had previously portrayed him in the made-for-TV biopics Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.
    • Ironically, Harold Gray was a staunchly conservative opponent of the New Deal and was not shy about using Little Orphan Annie as a political platform. FDR and the New Deal are, of course, portrayed positively in the musical, which was written after Gray's death.
  • Played by Jon Voight in the film Pearl Harbor.
  • FDR was retconned to be the founder of the Justice Society of America, and his fictional super-powered great-grandson, "Lance" Reid, was a member in pre-Flashpoint continuity.
  • It turns out that a still-living FDR is an employee at McAwesome's Parasailing and Chocolate Bakery in the world of Shortpacked!, just as "Ronnie" works for the nearby toy store.
  • A still-living nonagenarian FDR is also portrayed as a high-ranking secret society member in the Illuminatus!! trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.
  • The Super Soldier Serum taken by Captain America was, according to some comics, supposed to go to FDR after it had been tested. This would cure the effects of the polio and let him walk on his own again. Cap himself had a bit of hero-worship going on for Roosevelt, and the Sentinel of Liberty miniseries shows that Steve was employed as a mural painter by the WPA. Considering that FDR personally presented him with his indestructible round shield, you can understand the good feeling.
  • Like most other politicians (and some that aren't even politicians) of the time-period, Roosevelt is a possible (and indeed, the default) Head of State for the USA in Hearts of Iron 2.
    • He is also a choice for leader of America in Civilization 4, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Roosevelt is Industrious and Organized, which gives a boon to production and efficiency.
  • The King of Queens. Doug's father-in-law is still sensitive to the topic of FDR's polio.
  • Even Family Guy thinks it's Too Soon to make a lamer than FDR's legs joke.
  • Appears several times in Alternate History works by Harry Turtledove.
    • In Worldwar he dies early, in 1944, due to the extra stress of having to manage a war against alien invaders and constantly being moved around the country. Henry Wallace was still his Vice President, but he had already been killed in an attack on Seattle and so Secretary of State Cordell Hull succeeded FDR as President.
    • In TL-191 his analogue, known as "Franklin Roosevelt" rather than by his acronym, is the Secretary for Defence under President Charlie La Follette of the Socialist Party. As this is a less high-profile position, he is open about being disabled.
      • The ghastly number of men returning from both the First and Second Great Wars with missing limbs or other disabilities has made the USA in this timeline more accepting of the disabled (along with earlier acceptance of women's rights and at least some moves toward racial equality, this is one of the few good outcomes of the Crapsack World that is Timeline 191).
  • A character on Seinfeld is referred to as "FDR", which is then explained to stand for "Franklin Delano Romanowski", a disgruntled hotdog vendor who lives in Jerry and Kramer's building.
  • In the All in the Family episode "Cousin Maude's Visit", Maude is shown to love Roosevelt, calling him "a saint". Archie's "secret weapon" against her is insulting FDR.
  • Assassin's Creed II gives him a little bit of a Historical Villain Upgrade, playing off the real life controversies like the Japanese Internment and his court-packing scheme, and implies that he used a Piece of Eden to navigate the country through the Great Depression. He was also apparently one of four Knights Templar in charge of the world's major superpowers, and helped to orchestrate World War II as a way of creating a New World Order. The other three? Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler.
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series imply that he was a son of the Big Three; Hades, Poseidon or Zeus. Its Wiki reveals that he is the son of Zeus.
  • Shows up as America's boss in Axis Powers Hetalia...although his face is hardly seen.
  • The Venture Bros.: The ghost of Abraham Lincoln confesses that FDR was one of his favorite Presidents. "I loved to watch him sleep. Fate of the world on his polio-ridden shoulders....that was a clear conscience."
  • Bill Murray played FDR in Hyde Park On Hudson, which depicts his affair with his distant cousin, Margaret Stuckley, with the focus being an important weekend where he had King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit.
  • Resistance has FDR appear in a passing mention as having been defeated in the 1940 Election by Noah Grace.
  • In "When I See an Elephant Fly" from Disney's Dumbo, one of the puns is "I heard a fireside chat", a then-contemporary reference to Roosevelt's fireside chats.
  • ''FDR: American Badass!" is an... unusual spoof of the man's life. He is infected with polio after being bitten by a Nazi werewolf, and discovers that werewolves are in control of the Axis countries and plotting to take over the world with werewolf blood-infested alcohol. Yep.
  • In Philip Roth's Alternate History novel The Plot Against America, he was defeated by Charles Lindbergh in the 1940 election, who keeps the US out of World War II.
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, outgoing Commissioner James Gordon relates his experiences during the war to incoming Commissioner Ellen Yindel, appointed by the mayor on her anti-Batman stance. He specifically stated that he refused to ever consider if Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbour, stating that the whole thing was "too big" to comprehend, making an analogy to Batman's importance as a symbol. After failing to capture Batman multiple times, Yindel finally concedes to Gordon's point.

Alternative Title(s):

Franklin D Roosevelt