Franklin D. Roosevelt Quotes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1882 – 1945

Born: 30 January 1882, Hyde Park, New York
Died: 12 April 1945, Warm Springs, Georgia

Roosevelt was born into one of the oldest and best-connected American families. He was educated at Groton School and Harvard, entered Columbia Law School in 1906 but didn’t graduate as he had already passed the bar exam and joined the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard and Milburn to practice corporate law. He married his fifth cousin Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905. He served briefly in the New York state senate, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913–1918. After running for vice president in 1920 he was afflicted by polio which paralyzed him from the waist down. Elected twice as governor of New York, he ran for president in 1932 and became the only person elected to that office four times. His four terms spanned the Great Depression and World War II. Whether revered or reviled, the creator of the “New Deal” is certainly one of the most influential presidents in the country’s history.

Franklin D. Roosevelt quotes:

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – radio address (26 October 1939)

A dark old world was devastated by wars between conflicting religions. A dark modern world faces wars between conflicting economic and political fanaticisms in which are intertwined race hatreds.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – address at Chautauqua, New York (14 August 1936)

A radical is a man with both feet firmly planted — in the air. A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward. A reactionary is a somnambulist walking backwards. A liberal is a man who uses his legs and his hands at the behest — at the command — of his head.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – radio address (26 October 1939)

All work undertaken should be useful — not just for a day, or a year, but useful in the sense that it affords permanent improvement in living conditions or that it creates future new wealth for the Nation.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – second State of the Union Address (4 January 1935)

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us…. With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

Confidence … thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – first inaugural address (4 March 1933)

Every man has a right to life. That means that he also has a right to make a comfortable living.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

Freedom to learn is the first necessity of guaranteeing that man himself shall be self-reliant enough to be free.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – address to the National Education Association (30 June 1938)

Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

Governments never do anything by accident; if government does something you can bet it was carefully planned.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – first inaugural address (4 March 1933)

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line — the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – address at Chautauqua, New York (14 August 1936)

I have seen war…. I hate war.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – address at Chautauqua, New York (14 August 1936)

I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – accepting Democratic Party nomination (2 July 1932)

I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird, and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
I wish I could keep war from all Nations; but that is beyond my power. I can at least make certain that no act of the United States helps to produce or to promote war. I can at least make clear that the conscience of America revolts against war and that any Nation which provokes war forfeits the sympathy of the people of the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

address at Chautauqua, New York (14 August 1936)
If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

address to the National Education Association (30 June 1938)
If you treat people right they will treat you right — ninety percent of the time.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
It is fun to be in the same decade with you.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
It is the duty of the President to propose and it is the privilege of the Congress to dispose.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Many causes produce war. There are ancient hatreds, turbulent frontiers, the “legacy of old forgotten, far-off things, and battles long ago.” There are new-born fanaticisms. Convictions on the part of certain peoples that they have become the unique depositories of ultimate truth and right.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

address at Chautauqua, New York (14 August 1936)
Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own mind.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Never underestimate a man who overestimates himself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
No business which depends for its existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of decent living.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

radio address (29 December 1940)

Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

second inaugural address (20 January 1937)
Peace, like charity, begins at home.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Remember, you are just an extra in everyone else’s play.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Taxes, after all, are the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

campaign speech at Worcester, Massachusetts (21 October 1936)
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 D. Roosevelt

Oglethorpe University commencement address (22 May 1932)
The Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

letter to all state governors on Uniform Soil Conservation Law (26 February 1937)
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

second inaugural address (20 January 1937)
The truth is found when men are free to pursue it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
There is no indispensable man.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

first inaugural address (4 March 1933)
They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers … call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
This government must lose no time or effort to keep the nation from being drawn into the war. In my candid judgement, we shall succeed in these efforts.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
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 vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

first inaugural address (4 March 1933)
To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

State of the Union Address (1944)
We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
We do our best that we know how at the moment, and if it doesn’t turn out, we modify it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
We find our population suffering from old inequalities, little changed by vast sporadic remedies.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

second State of the Union Address (4 January 1935)
We have … a clear mandate from the people, that Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive profits, creates undue private power over private affairs and, to our misfortune, over public affairs as well. In building toward this end we do not destroy ambition, nor do we seek to divide our wealth into equal shares on stated occasions. We continue to recognize the greater ability of some to earn more than others. But we do assert that the ambition of the individual to obtain for him and his a proper security, a reasonable leisure, and a decent living throughout life, is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

second State of the Union Address (4 January 1935)
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

to White House Correspondents’ Association, Washington City (12 February 1943)

We know that equality of individual ability has never existed and never will, but we do insist that equality of opportunity still must be sought.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
We must be the great arsenal of Democracy.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fireside Chat (29 December 1940)
We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

address to Congress (8 December 1941)

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