In the early days of 1933, things were looking pretty bad in America. The Great Depression had been going on for years. Unemployment was rampant, inflation was through the roof, and the government seemed to have no idea how to tackle the crisis. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and, during his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, everything changed.
In this speech, FDR dismissed the idea that everything was hopeless. He called out the previous administration for having badly bungled the crisis and refusing to admit the real depth of the problems the nation faced. He spoke of hope and how he believed that the nation’s problems could be solved and the nation returned to prosperity, as long as everyone realized that success was possible and hard work needed. He summed up the cause of the nation’s problems and the source of the solution in one line, possibly the most famous line ever uttered by a politician: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The line struck a note with the nation. People got behind FDR’s efforts in large numbers. He created a sweeping new jobs program and got people back to work. Unemployment dropped, and the economy came back to life. FDR was proved right. The only thing the people of the nation had to fear was fear keeping them from doing what needed to be done.