90 Years Later, FDR's Words Still Ring True

Written by Luke Burgess
Posted October 27, 2021

In 1933 the United States was deep into the worst economic depression the nation had ever faced. The stock market crash a few years earlier wiped out millions of investors. Countless businesses went bankrupt. The unemployment rate neared 25%. Meanwhile, half the country's banks had failed.

It was a dark time for America — and not unlike many of the conditions we face today.

In their time of need, the American people elected a new leader to guide them through the tumultuous moment. And it was in 1933 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous inaugural address.

I am certain that you are familiar with at least one quote from FDR's 1933 speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But I don't want you to focus on that one specific part.

Instead, I want you to consider the overall message of the speech. Because, like I said, there are striking similarities between current economic and financial issues and those of FDR's day. You will be surprised how applicable FDR's words are today.

So I'd actually like to end here today. And let Mr. Roosevelt speak for himself.

I'm not going to post the entire speech (which you can read here), but instead a large, contiguous section of the speech. Also please note that I've reformatted the speech below to better conform to our internal formatting and underlined important parts I want you to note.

And with that, I turn it over to Mr. Roosevelt.

First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, March 4, 1933

... 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...

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things.

Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.

Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance.

We are stricken by no plague of locusts.

Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.

Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated.

Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition.

Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money.

Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence.

They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

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.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

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.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone.

This Nation asks for action, and action now...

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stem performance of duty by old and young alike.

We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy.

The people of the United States have not failed.

In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action.

They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership...

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us.

Until next time,
Luke Burgess Signature
Luke Burgess

Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Through his work with the Outsider Club and Junior Mining Trader, Luke helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.

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