80 years ago today, Democratic Party president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was inaugurated for the first time. The country was in the midst of its Great Depression, but FDR along with a powerful progressive movement that organized workers and the unemployed rebuilt the nation and virtually eliminated voluntary unemployment.
This all began with FDR’s inaugural address on March 4, 1933, where he laid out an agenda of tackling the excesses of turbo capitalism and the idea that the pursuit of profit should come before the pursuit of happiness.
Roosevelt first began by condemning the philosophy of greed he saw creating the Depression:
The money changers have fled from 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.
He then laid out a progressive agenda of restoring employment, saying that the government must tackle it with the same urgency it would tackle a war with a foreign foe:
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 accomplished 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 natural resources.
Finally, he spoke of regulating the Big Banks and speculation that destroyed the economy:
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.
Watch Roosevelt’s full address: