I AM certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my
induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a
decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. 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. I am
convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these
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.
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.
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of
population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national
scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land
for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite
efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the
power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by
preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through
foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by
insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith
on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped
by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered,
uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and
supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and
other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many
ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by
talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
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.
There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new
Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and
I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own
national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our
international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of
time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national
economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things
first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international
economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery
is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first
consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all
parts of the United States—a recognition of the old and permanently
important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the
way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance
that the recovery will endure.
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy
of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and,
because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who
respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in
and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have
never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not
merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we
must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good
of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is
made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing
to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes
possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to
offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a
sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this
great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of
government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution
is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet
extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss
of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved
itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world
has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of
foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative
authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before
us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed
action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures
that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.
These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of
its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional
authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two
courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical,
I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I
shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the
crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as
great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded
by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion
that befit the time. I can do no less.
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 stern
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. They have made me the present
instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He
protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.