Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

Author: Franklin D. Roosevelt  | Date: October 30, 1936

208 Address at Brooklyn, N.Y.
October 30, 1936

During the past month I have seen a great deal of our country and a great many of our people. Both the America and the Americans I have seen look very different from three and a half years ago.

Many important things have happened to them in those three and a half years. I could talk to you for hours about this better, happier America. What I am going to talk to you about for a few minutes, however, is some of the things that have brought about that better, happier America. I want to tell you in terms of actual achievement what we in Washington have done, what we have done to restore prosperity, what we have done to end abuses.

The first thing before us on that famous fourth of March, 1933, was to give aid to those overtaken by disaster. We did that, and we are not ashamed of giving help to those who needed help. We furnished food relief, drought relief, flood relief, work relief. We established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration; the Public Works Administration; the Civilian Conservation Corps; the Works Progress Administration. Some people ridicule them as alphabetical agencies. But you and I know that they are the agencies that have substituted food for starvation; work for idleness; hope instead of dull despair.

And on November 3d, America will say that that was a job well done!

The second thing we did was to help our stalled economic engine to get under way again. We knew enough about the mechanism of our economic order to know that we could not do that one wheel at a time. We had had enough of one-wheel economics. We proposed to get all four wheels started at once. We knew that it was no good to try to start only the wheel of finance. At the same time we had to start the wheels of agriculture, of workers of all classes, of business and industry.

By democratizing the work of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and redirecting it into more practical and helpful channels we furnished fuel for the machine.

We primed the pump by spending Government money in direct relief, in work relief, in public works.

We established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration; the National Recovery Administration; the Farm Credit Administration; the Soil Conservation Program; the Home Owners Loan Corporation; the Federal Housing Administration; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Resettlement Administration; the Rural Electrification Administration. We set up a sound monetary policy; a sound banking structure; reciprocal trade agreements; foreign exchange accords.

We created a National Labor Relations Board to improve working conditions and seek industrial peace. We brought the business men of the Nation together to encourage them to increase wages, to shorten working hours, to abolish child labor. With labor’s aid and backing we took the first great step for workers’ security by the Social Security Act— an act which is now being misrepresented to the workers in a pay-envelope propaganda by a few employers whom you will easily recognize as old time exploiters of labor who have always fought against contributing anything themselves to a sound security for the laboring man and his wife and children.

That Act is a new Magna Charta for those who work. In its preparation and in its enactment, it was supported not only by organized labor but by those other liberal groups—workers, employers, churches, private charities, educators who for many years have believed that modern Government can make provision against the hardship of unemployment and the terrors of old age.

On the passage of this law, in addition to overwhelming support on the part of Democrats in both the House and Senate, the country should note that seventy-seven Republican Representatives voted for it and only eighteen against it, .and that in the Senate fifteen Republican Senators voted for it and only five against it.

This fact is perhaps illustrative of the paradox that in the closing days of the campaign, a distraught Republican leadership, driven to desperation and urged on by the same sinister forces which generation after generation have opposed all social legislation, now repudiates its own Representatives and Senators in the halls of the Congress and leaves them looking positively silly.

The people of the State of New York recognize in this issue in a national campaign only another form of the struggle to which we have become accustomed in this State for many years past. Every man and woman here knows that we have been blessed with these great social reforms because we have had liberal Government in Albany. We know that we would not have had them if the Old Guard Republican leadership had been in power.

Governor Lehman has not merely exemplified in his splendid objectives this spirit of far-sighted progress, but he has practiced what he has preached, and thereby has continued to strengthen the civic conscience of the people of this State. There is none among you who believes that on Tuesday next there is one chance in a thousand that New York State will turn its Government back to the Old Guard.

To return to what the Federal Government has done in the past three and one-half years, some people call these things waste. You and I know that they are the means by which our stalled machine has been started on the road once more.

And on November 3d America will say that that was a job well done!

The third thing we did was to look to the future, to root out abuses, to establish every possible defense against a return of the evils which brought the crash. We established the Securities Exchange Commission; banking reforms; a sound monetary policy; deposit insurance for fifty million bank accounts—all aimed to safeguard the thrift of our citizens.

By our tax policy and by regulating financial markets, we loosened the grip which monopolies had fastened upon independent American business. We began also to free American business and American labor from the unfair competition of a small unscrupulous minority. We established by statute a curb upon the overweening power and unholy practices of some utility holding companies.

By the Rural Electrification Act, by the Tennessee Valley Authority and similar projects we set up yardsticks to bring electricity at cheaper rates to the average American farm and the average American home. Through loans to private enterprise and in cooperation with cities, we promoted slum-clearance and established low-cost modern housing. We set up a National Youth Administration to help keep our youth in school and to hold open for them the door of opportunity. By a successful war on crime we have made America’s homes and places of business safer against the gangster, the kidnapper and the racketeer.

Some people call these things meddling and interference. You and I know them to be new stones in a foundation on which we can, and are determined to, build a structure of economic security for all our people—a safer, happier, more American America.

On November 3d, the American people will say that that is a job well begun!

These are the things we have done. They are a record of three and a half years crowded with achievements significant of better life for all the people. Every group in our national life has benefited, because what we have done for each group has produced benefits for every other group. In our policies there are no distinctions between them. There will be none. If we are in trouble we are all of us in trouble together. If we are to be prosperous, if we are to be secure, we must all be prosperous and secure together.

Unfortunately, those who now raise the cry of class distinctions are the very leaders whose policies in the past have fostered such distinctions. When they were in power, they were content in the belief that the chief function of Government was to help only those at the top in the pious hope that the few at the top would in their benevolence or generosity pass that help on.

That theory of Government has been banished from Washington. It did not work. It was not and cannot be the answer to our problem. We have united all classes in the Nation in a program for the Nation. In doing that, we are bridging the gulf of antagonism which twelve years of neglect had opened up between them.

An equally important task remains to be done: to go forward, to consolidate and to strengthen these gains, to close the gaps by destroying the glaring inequalities of opportunity and of security which, in the recent past, have set group against group and region against region.

By our policies for the future we will carry forward this program of unity. We will not be content until all our people fairly share in the ever-increasing capacity of America to provide a high standard of living for all its citizens.

On November 3d, the American people will say that our policy for the future is their policy for the future.


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Chicago: Franklin D. Roosevelt, "208 Address at Brooklyn, N.Y.," Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936 in Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936 (New York: Russell & Russell, 1938-1950), Item 238 Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024,

MLA: Roosevelt, Franklin D. "208 Address at Brooklyn, N.Y." Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, in Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936 (New York: Russell & Russell, 1938-1950), Item 238, Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Roosevelt, FD, '208 Address at Brooklyn, N.Y.' in Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936. cited in , Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936 (New York: Russell & Russell, 1938-1950), Item 238. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from