You know, I dream dreams but am, at the same time, an intensely practical person.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Private letter to Jan Christiaan Smuts, November 24, 1942
President Franklin Roosevelt, the practical dreamer, must be ascribed the title "architect" of the United Nations, even if he did not live long enough to become its primary builder. Out of the ruins of World War II FDR and his advisers crafted a new world organization which they hoped would keep the peace as Wilson's League of Nations had not been able to do. They sought to institutionalize the wartime cooperation of the great powers for years to come.
It was Roosevelt who cajoled the hard-bitten realist and defender of the British Empire Winston Churchill into accepting an institution committed to the self-determination of colonial peoples around the world. It was Roosevelt who pressured, bargained, and compromised with the ever-suspicious Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to bring about a universal collective security system dominated, at least initially, by the United States. Most important, it was FDR who worked assiduously to ensure congressional and public support for the idea of a universal organization, thus avoiding the tragic failure experienced by Wilson in the debate over the Versailles Treaty and America's membership in the League. Beginning in 1942 and culminating with the Yalta Conference in 1945, Roosevelt honed his own ideas about how a new world order might be built and maintained, undertook the diplomatic effort to bring those ideas to fruition, and succeeded in convincing his countrymen and his country's allies of the merits of his prescription. By the time of his death in 1945 Franklin Roosevelt had made the United Nations the heart of America's postwar strategy. While it would be left to President Truman to implement that strategy, Roosevelt came to the end of his life believing that the world's best hope for a lasting peace resided in the great powers' cooperation in the new organization.