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March 4, 1933 | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

March 4, 1933

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inaugural as President.

On a cold day at the tail of winter, Roosevelt looked out over a nation gripped by Depression, incapacitated by fear, and confronted by threats as grave as any we face today. He spoke, reassuringly, of how we had nothing to fear but fear itself. The New Deal policies he launched transformed nearly every aspect of American political, economic and cultural life. As important, they restored hope, work and a measure of dignity to millions.

It is that spirit of grounded realism and determined idealism that we need to reclaim today. It is that spirit which offers an antidote to those who rule as if they have nothing to fear but the end of fear itself.

As we wait for the results from today's primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont, it's worth asking if the party of Roosevelt can recapture the imagination and nerve to offer solutions on a scale equal to the problems we face?

Tonight, after the voting booths and caucus halls close, we will hear many words. Some will soar and seek to sound themes reminiscent of a time when our social contract was rewoven.

Here are a few words, from that first Inaugural Address, I'd like to hear 2008 variations on this evening: "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....This Nation asks for action, and action now...Our greatest primary task is to put people to work..." (To read the entire text of Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address. click here.)

In the time "it took FDR to deliver those words on a bleak and unpromising day in Washington," writes Richard Parker in our "New New Deal" issue out later this month, "[Roosevelt] described a politics, an economics, and a morality at once--and thereby told Americans how they could and should make change, that he would lead them in doing so, and who would oppose them."

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