An excerpt from FDR’s Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.
My fellow Americans, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. And polio. Polio is a son-of-a-bitch.
And the Great Depression, a problem we are in the depths of, and about which I will spearhead federal legislation to produce jobs, economic growth, and sensible regulation of Wall Street, legislation that will work, until it won’t, when, due to the greed of the banks, millions of people will be forced to foreclose on their homes, the stock market will crash, and the U.S. auto industry will be crippled. We have that to fear as well.
Imagine how terrible it would be to be led by someone who didn’t have good intentions. And who was public about those bad intentions.
And Prohibition, a constitutional ban I will repeal, which will have a positive effect on the agriculture business, and will allow people to once more legally drink themselves to death, whether by binging or by the slow precipitous decline associated with long-term alcohol abuse.
This is my promise to you.
And the Japanese invasion of China, the escalation of Nazi Germany, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the declaration of war on both Japan and Germany. Which we will win, my fellow Americans, through a mobilized war effort, the internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans, and the development and dropping of the world’s first atomic bombs, initiating a never-ending nuclear standoff with Russia, rogue nations, and lone-wolf terrorists, but that will do nothing to stop the tide of war that has infected mankind since the dawn of civilization and may cause the dusk of our existence. Scary shit.
Oh, and the Holocaust. That will happen, too. Can’t take that back.
And racism—we have that to fear, too—about which I won’t do enough to criticize, and may even be a proponent of—see: Japanese-American Internment—and I will only invite white American athletes to meet me after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and I will accidentally appoint a former member of the KKK to the Supreme Court, and I will not support proposals to make lynching a federal crime because, politically, it will just be too risky.
And by the time we do elect a black president—no, seriously, this will happen—racism will continue to be a major problem in our country, during his presidency, and especially after.
All this bad shit will happen despite how much good I intend. And despite the good man I try every day to be. Imagine if I was a dick.
(God, this speech is so depressing. And scary. And being scared is an emotional trigger for depression. And the possibility of being depressed is yet another thing to fear.)
We are all charged with doing our best. Every one of us. And with curing polio, which we will do—not for me, of course, but for every country except Pakistan and Afghanistan, the latter where we are still entranced in a war on terrorism, the former with whom we have a tenuous diplomatic relationship.
But we will not have fear. Or, we will have fear, but only in relation to fear itself.
And thank God I will not give voice to outside fear during my tenure as President. And thank God I do not use my bully pulpit to instill fear in the people on the internet—which will become a thing—instead focusing on solutions to make our great nation and the world a safer, better place. Because, as you can see, history is terrible enough when under the will of good intentions.
I will try my best. Sometimes I will fuck up—I have to live with that—but I will try, goddamnit.
Imagine how terrible it would be to be led by someone who didn’t have good intentions. And who was public about those bad intentions. What kind of message would that send to the American people? What kind of example would that be to follow? And what would be the countless ripples born by an administration that insists that the only thing to fear is not fear itself, but the consequences of hope?
Hypothetically speaking, of course. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.