Published: PolicyMic (January 17, 2013)
This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1937) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1941)
While Lincoln’s second inaugural may be the greatest of such speeches ever delivered, Roosevelt’s second inaugural gives it a run for its money. Like Lincoln, Roosevelt’s first term oversaw some of the most radical changes ever to occur in American history. In order to fight the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation transformed the relationship between the state and its people, establishing the idea that the government should provide economic security as well as simply protect basic civil liberties. Although these policies had stirred up enormous controversy among conservatives in both parties during the first four years of Roosevelt’s presidency (as they would during the last eight as well), they were resoundingly endorsed by the American people in the presidential election of 1936, in which more than three-fifths of the voting public cast their ballots for Roosevelt, winning him every state except Maine and Vermont. This historic occasion was more than sufficient cause for Roosevelt to brag during his second inaugural, which, in a distinctly un-Lincolnesque manner, he did. At the same time, he also laid out the logic behind his unprecedented actions in language that liberals would continue to use for generations to come. Instead of running away from the Constitution, he placed progressive economic values as being firmly within the spirit of the founders’ intent: