Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

Launching the New Deal

March 4, 1933

It was a cold and somber day. Nearly a quarter of the labor force was out of work. Banks had shut their doors. Farms were going belly up. Breadlines snaked through city streets. Standing jut jawed at the lectern before the Capitol's assembled throng on his first Inauguration Day, Franklin Delano Roosevelt countered the sense of helplessness, telling the shaken nation, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He then outlined a plan of economic revolution: bank and stock-market reforms, public-works programs, and emergency relief for farms. But the day's solemnity made room for celebration too, as Roosevelt answered cheers by shaking his hands over his head like a prizefighter. Later he wagged his top hat at marchers in the Inauguration parade, including four men pushing lawn mowers, a gibe at outgoing President Hoover's remark that if Democrats won, grass would grow in the streets.