FDR - "Fear Itself"

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In his first inaugural address, which remains one of the most famous in American history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a nation of people who were in the throes of the Great Depression. 

It was on the 4th of March, in 1933, when FDR—encouraging his fellow citizens—made history with this part of his speech, telling everyone:

...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

So important was this assertion, to President Roosevelt, that he included it in the first paragraph of his speech (broken into smaller paragraphs here, for easier reading):

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 people impel. 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 critical days.


Roosevelt was someone who knew fear ... personal, intimate fear. At the age of 39, he became desperately ill (and nearly died). Doctors eventually diagnosed his condition as polio. The man who would become American's 32nd President never regained the use of his legs

You can examine the final manuscript of this speech online, courtesy the U.S. National Archives.

Media Credits

Clip, FDR first inaugural address - March 4, 1933.

Courtesy, Library of Congress.



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"FDR - "Fear Itself"" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 04, 2022.
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