Character [ethos] is the most potent of all means of
—Aristotle, Rhetoric, Book 1.
At the beginning of the fourth decade of the twentieth century, peace everywhere was threatened. The whole world was in flux; although the Spanish Civil War had ended, World War II had broken out in Europe; Luftwaffe planes were bombing England; Japanese forces had invaded China and Indo-China. The world had moved to a global economy, and the balance of power was shifting. The United States, new to its role as a truly great industrial power, was inescapably involved in the affairs of other nations through heritage, diplomatic ties, vast flows of resources, and extensive commerce links. Franklin Roosevelt realized this fact earlier than most politicians, and he used persona and persuasion, buttressed by guile, and outright deceptions in several instances, to bring American voters along.
Was he a great President? Does he belong in an American pantheon along with Washington and Lincoln? What makes for greatness, anyway?
According to the writings of William Shakespeare, some men are born great, others achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Franklin Roosevelt’s life fits into each of the three categories. The bard of Avon might have added (but didn’t) that some persons outlive greatness; yet that is what happened to Franklin Roosevelt.