Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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January 30th
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born January 30, 1882, entered politics because he was a man of ambition and because he wanted to serve his country. His plans were almost cut short while vacationing at Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1921 when he came down with what, at first, seemed to be a cold. He lost his appetite, his back began to ache, and his left leg went numb. A few days later, he couldn’t stand. At age thirty-nine Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio. Paralyzed from the waist down, he watched as the muscles of his legs began wasting away.

Roosevelt was determined to beat the disease. For months he crawled from room to room in his house and dragged himself hand over hand up the stairs, gritting his teeth but never asking for help. Every day, he strapped steel braces onto his legs and tried hobbling on crutches to the end of his long driveway. Through rigorous exercise he developed tremendous upper body strength. “Maybe my legs aren’t so good,” he said, “but look at those shoulders.” Despite his efforts, he never again walked without aid.

He did, however, make it to the White House, where he led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. President Roosevelt worked with such vigor that millions of Americans never realized the full extent of his disability. Once someone asked him how he had so much perseverance. He smiled and answered, “If you have to spend two years in bed trying to wiggle your big toe, everything else seems easy.”

Roosevelt knew that our trials often make us stronger. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he told Americans during the Depression. The thirty-second U.S. president did his best to live by those words.

American History Parade
1798
A brawl erupts in the U.S. House when Matthew Lyon of Vermont spits on Roger Griswold of Connecticut after an exchange of insults.

1835
In the first presidential assassination attempt, Richard Lawrence, a mentally ill man, tries to shoot Andrew Jackson in the U.S. Capitol.

1847
The California town of Yerba Buena is renamed San Francisco.

1862
The Union ironclad USS Monitor is launched at Greenpoint, New York.

1882
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president, is born in Hyde Park, New York.

1933
The first episode of The Lone Ranger is broadcast on radio station WXYZ in Detroit.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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