FDR's Path to Politics

By Richard Raymond, III | The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA), March 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

FDR's Path to Politics


Richard Raymond, III, The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)


Love him or hate him, accounts of the life and works of Franklin Delano Roosevelt will always occupy a large and respected space on the nation's library shelves. For those who admire - even revere - his memory, this modest volume will only confirm their belief that FDR was indeed the man meeting the hour in time of great need. For the others - and surely those who stand neutral or ignorant of the facts must be few - it may serve to underscore their view that he was overcharged with ruthless ambition.

The title should indicate in which camp the author resides - yet with a fair amount of objectivity mixed in. From the very beginning of his college studies and later legal career, FDR had a clear vision of his path to success. Born into wealth and social position - he was of the Hyde Park branch of New York's Roosevelt clan, the other being the Oyster Bay, of whom the redoubtable Teddy the Rough Rider was preeminent - his road was considerably smoothed by this circumstance. Nonetheless, he was obliged to make his own way first into a highly competitive law practice, then to the rough-and- tumble of Empire State politics.

And he made his mark quite early. "In one of the most fateful decisions of his young life, FDR decided to accept the offer to run for the New York State Senate."

With growing political skill, he moved steadily upward, only once - in a stunning defeat for election to the U.S. Senate - having to step back and evaluate his chances. His strong backing of Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential race helped to place him in the position he desired most of all - that of Assistant Secretary of the Navy. …

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