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This is the story of a political miracle -- the perfect match of man and moment. Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March of 1933 as America touched bottom. Banks were closing everywhere. Millions of people lost everything. The Great Depression had caused a national breakdown. With the craft of a master storyteller, Jonathan Alter brings us closer than ever before to the Roosevelt magic. Facing the gravest crisis since the Civil War, FDR used his cagey political instincts and ebullient temperament in the storied first Hundred Days of his presidency to pull off an astonishing conjuring act that lifted the country and saved both democracy and capitalism.

Who was this man? To revive the nation when it felt so hopeless took an extraordinary display of optimism and self-confidence. Alter shows us how a snobbish and apparently lightweight young aristocrat was forged into an incandescent leader by his domineering mother; his independent wife; his eccentric top adviser, Louis Howe; and his ally-turned-bitter-rival, Al Smith, the Tammany Hall street fighter FDR had to vanquish to complete his preparation for the presidency.

"Old Doc Roosevelt" had learned at Warm Springs, Georgia, how to lift others who suffered from polio, even if he could not cure their paralysis, or his own. He brought the same talents to a larger stage. Derided as weak and unprincipled by pundits, Governor Roosevelt was barely nominated for president in 1932. As president-elect, he escaped assassination in Miami by inches, then stiffed President Herbert Hoover's efforts to pull him into cooperating with him to deal with a terrifying crisis. In the most tumultuous and dramatic presidential transition in history, the entire banking structure came tumbling down just hours before FDR's legendary "only thing we have to fear is fear itself" Inaugural Address.

In a major historical find, Alter unearths the draft of a radio speech in which Roosevelt considered enlisting a private army of American Legion veterans on his first day in office. He did not. Instead of circumventing Congress and becoming the dictator so many thought they needed, FDR used his stunning debut to experiment. He rescued banks, put men to work immediately, and revolutionized mass communications with pioneering press conferences and the first Fireside Chat. As he moved both right and left, Roosevelt's insistence on "action now" did little to cure the Depression, but he began to rewrite the nation's social contract and lay the groundwork for his most ambitious achievements, including Social Security.

From one of America's most respected journalists, rich in insights and with fresh documentation and colorful detail, this thrilling story of presidential leadership -- of what government is for -- resonates through the events of today. It deepens our understanding of how Franklin Delano Roosevelt restored hope and transformed America.

The Defining Moment will take its place among our most compelling works of political history.

Topics: Presidents

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416535102
List price: $13.99
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The man who STILL drives conservatives and libertarians bat-sh&t-nuts-crazy! Mr. Alter lays out just what FDR meant to the country. Alter, to his credit, makes this an exciting insightful read by concentrating on the intangible net-worth of FDR's confidence and his message of hope for a country knocked on its ass during the Great Depression.more
Those of us alive now have a difficult time understanding the degree of fear and uncertainty felt by people in 1933 when the banks were closing and they had no idea what the future held. One had to live through the time to know how it felt. Even then, some people soon forgot and started complaining about FDR’s efforts to fight the depression. They forgot that before FDR's inauguration may leading thinkers (including the respected columnist Walter Lippman) were encouraging him to assume dictatorial powers in order to save the nation. Conditions were so bad that some people speculated that the last time the world had a similar crisis it was followed by 400 years of "dark ages." And with the wrong people in leadership it could have turned into a dark age. Instead Franklin Roosevelt was able to lift the confidence of the nation. I can remember my father telling me about Roosevelt closing all the banks in the United States on his first day of being president. He felt FDR had saved the nation. Roosevelt was able to instill the needed confidence in the banks by promising that the banks that were allowed to open again would be safe. The bank’s conditions were reviewed and only the solvent bank’s were allowed to open. Then within weeks, people who had waited in line to get their money out of the bank were now waiting in line to put their money back in. There was no deposit insurance at the time, so the fear of banks failing was real. Ironically FDR was opposed to deposit insurance at the time. In hindsight it’s apparent that FDR, and most other people at the time, did not understand very much about economics. He sort of took action by intuition. The early New Deal program was actually operated by left over staff from the Hoover administration. Nevertheless, it is obvious that there is no way Herbert Hoover could have instilled the confidence in the banks the way the FDR did. The difference between recovery and disaster was psychological, but nevertheless it was a real difference.It’s interesting to note that on paper Hoover was much more qualified to be president than FDR. Which indicates that the most important trait needed to be president is charisma. Experience and administrative skill are not all that important for the top person; Others can do that stuff.The conclusion of this book is that FDR deserves credit for saving democracy, but not ending the depression. The depression was ended by World War II.more
I admit to reading this one because Obama was reading it and because so many pundits have been citing similarities between the Depression in the 30ies and Roosevelt’s first 100 days of New Deal legislation and the situation currently faced by our new president. I ended up seeing more differences than similarities between the two presidents and between the two situations—which doesn’t mean the book isn’t not only interesting but timely. By the way, I agree with the author that this time around 100 days won’t do it. And even with Roosevelt, as Alter says, his most significant legislation, Social Security, passed later in his Presidency.While the book tends to zero in on the 100 days, the author obviously found that, writing to a general audience, he had to give considerable background on Roosevelt—which he does in a series of short chapters which I found fun to read even though I’m fairly well read on Roosevelt the person and the president and have recently read a good complete biography (Edwards, FDR). In most chapters there was an anecdote or fact that I’d not heard before so I couldn’t accuse Alter of just regurgitating what other writers have written.Alter makes much of the comment by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that Roosevelt’s primary asset was not his mind but his “first class temperament”—that the title of the first book I read about Roosevelt (by Geoffrey Ward). However, Alter does honor the suggestion, made by Edwards among others, that it’s not clear whether Justice Holmes was talking about FDR or about Teddy Roosevelt. But temperament is an important issue in the book and timely because so many have noted that one of Obama’s greatest assets is what most call, these days, his “unflappability”. In temperament they may not be all that similar, but for both Obama and Roosevelt, likability is an important part of the appeal and the ability to talk to “the people” (not just the politicians) in a way that clarifies complex issues and involves the listener in solutions is of critical importance.Alter gives considerable space to Eleanor in this book too: her despair at giving up her privacy to become first lady, her discovery of a new and historically significant role for the first lady, and her function in keeping FDR in touch. Because of his paralysis, the extent of which the American people did not know, Roosevelt was more vulnerable to what we now call the “bubble” the President exists in. In the 30ies Eleanor began traveling the country and the world, going down in coal mines—and eventually into war zones—to talk to “ordinary Americans” and bringing her insights back to the President. From the first, Roosevelt recognized the danger that the President grow “out of touch”, reminding us that Obama’s fight to keep his Blackberry isn’t just his technology fix, but his recognition that Presidents can easily become bubble-dwellers.more
Jonathan Alter is great as a political commentator, and ditto writher.more
This was an excellent book to read during the first weeks of the Obama Presidency. On reading the book, I could tell that Obama was using the same techniques as FDR to manage the banking crisis. Of course, on reading the book, the crisis FDR faced was far more dire than the current one.Overall, the book showed FDR as more human and politically driven than any type of savior. He did things to make himself look good and manipulated the press for his own interest. His burdens were heavier, dealing with those who would ditch democacy and capitalism for socialism and fascism. Our faith in those systems are stronger now.more
Illuminating.Timely.Eminently readable.I read it because it's one of the books our new president is reading because, you know, our new president reads.From the start, I was learning. There were many details of the Depression of which I was unaware. It was troubling how many of them mirrored today's headlines. But do the solutions attempted during the Depression have any applicability to today's circumstances?Alter makes the argument that the key to the New Deal was the persona of the newly elected president and his willingness to basically just keep throwing darts at the dart board. According to Alter, Roosevelt didn't have so much a vision regarding what to do as a drive to simply do something. The appearance of activity went a long way in creating optimism.Alter creates a revealing, well-balanced portrait of FDR. While his focus is the first 100 days of FDR's presidency, he provides plenty of lead in and follow up which gives the reader a solid overview of the entire era and a great deal of detail about the defining moment.more
An important book to read right now. The good years of the 1950s and 60s were built upon the foundation laid by FDR. Few people realize how close America came to complete collapse in 1933, or how crucial FDR's actions were in saving the capitalist system.more
The history of the U.S. is at another defining moment, as a new President prepares to take office who has the potential to be as transformative a leader as Lincoln or FDR. That is one reason I'm reading books about both FDR and Lincoln, to see what lessons their experiences provide us in another moment of national crisis.Alter is a senior editor at Newsweek and analyst for NBC news. He has put together an excellent work here that concentrates on the first 100 days of FDR's presidency. He does cover Roosevelt's life before the inaugaration, briefly, but with an emphasis on traits that helped FDR be probably the only man in the running who could have made things better to any real extent.Alter emphasizes some of the same things as others, including the effect the polio had in deepening Roosevelt's determination and compassion for others. Some things he talks about are not emphasized much in other bios, such as the attempted assassination in Miami in February 1932. Roosevelt was not injured, but Chicago mayor Anton Cermak was and eventually died of his wounds. At some point Cermak was put into the car next to Roosevelt who held and encouraged him until they reached the hospital. It had a galvanizing effect on public opinion of Roosevelt, who had been seen as rather weak and vacillating prior to this. Nevertheless, it was not an easy campaign and he almost did not get the nomination.One of the other big surprises is that Roosevelt was at first fairly conventional, determined to cut government spending and raise taxes in order to improve the economy... the things almost everyone in both parties were saying to do. He didn't have strongly held convictions on what to do, and some of the legislation of that first 100 days were cobbled together at the last minute and wererather a hodgepodge of ideas. FDR's genius was in part a willingness to try anything and see what worked and what didn't, a conviction that action of any kind was better than non-action. That, coupled with his genius for communicating, helped people recover their belief that things would get better, which by itself helped make things better.Alter's book is well-written, and incredibly well-researched. His bibliography is a masterpiece, and includes not only books, but document collections, interviews, and newspapers and magazines. He wrote this book as much as possible from primary materials, and found some resources in archives that haven't previously been used in works on FDR. Excellent and recommended book, with, in my opinion, good lessons for Obama..more
Jonathan Alter, senior editor at Newsweek, and frequent contributor at MSNBC has written an excellent book about the rise and early presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt entitled 'The Defining Moment.' In concise yet articulate chapters Alter paints a compelling portrait of FDR, ther president who took the helm at what was, up until that point, the direst financial and societal crisis the nation had seen perhaps since the Civil War, and certainly in the 20th century.Now known as 'The Great Depression,' America was plunged into crisis after the great stock crash of 1929. The downward spiral was arguably exacerbated and accelerated by the failed policies of Herbert Hoover. Enter FDR.Roosevelt had worked his way up to serve as secretary of the Navy in the mid 1920s. At that time Al Smith was the governor of New York. Smith, in some ways, saw FDR as his heir apparent to the governorship in NY. He also felt threatened by him.Smith had strong ties to the Tammany Hall group that had dominated NY city politics for decades but were suspect and corrupt in the eyes of many not within their circle. As the 1930s began, Alter describes how Roosevelt took on Tammany Hall and even launched an investigation against the NYC mayor, culminating in the mayor resigning under suspicion. This brazen challenging of the regional status quo helped make a name for FDR, and added momentum to his candidacy for president.As it turned out, FDR ended up battling Smith for the Democratic nomination in 1932. This was an uphill battle, as Smith, while waning in popularity with the electorate, tightly controlled the party leadership that got out the vote and controlled the convention.In Alter's nuanced portrait we see not only the glad-handing, smiling, congenial FDR who overcame obstacles and his disability. We also see a shrewd political maneuverer who knew how to say what needed to be said to win voter confidence, while also staying several steps ahead of his political adversaries. He showed great skill at gaining political advantage.Roosevelt faced significant challenges along the way. One of his greatest challenges was his battle with illness. At the age of 39 he developed a mysterious fever while on vacation. He did not seek treatment right away and ended up with a crippling case of polio. As president-elect, he also was the target of a botched assassination attempt.His handlers and assistants worked vigorously to keep FDR from being portrayed as weak. He was not allowed to be photographed either in a wheelchair or being carried. When he made his way to the rostrum at the convention, he strode up on his son's arm along with a cane.One of the key turning points in his recuperation was his trips to Warm Springs, Georgia. He found the waters there to be therapeutic and also found renewed confidence through his time there. Alter asserts that FDR's bout with polio also sensitized him to the plight of the disabled and destitute and, in part, influenced some of the sweeping social reforms of the New Deal.One of the greatest sources of strength for Franklin, though was his wife Eleanor. They had their share of challenges, and according to Alter were on the verge of her considering divorce due to his infidelity. She rallied behind him, though, and was an effective and persuasive campaigner. Alter mentions one story where protesters had gathered outside the White House and Eleanor went out to serve them tea, listen to their concerns and diffuse a potentially ugly situation.Once in office, FDR initiated the New Deal- which, while unpopular with conservatives to this day, arguably helped get the U.S. economy and workforce back on its feet. It also promoted greater equity in wages and benefits for American workers through programs like the National Recovery Administration and social security.Roosevelt also became well known for his 'fireside chats,' one of which Alter includes in the appendix. These periodic radio broadcasts were the first time a president had addressed the American people in a conversational style through mass media.Overall, Alter's book is excellent, readable and very thoughtfully written. There are no new or earth-shattering revelations, but the book offers a thoughtful overview of Roosevelt's ascension to the presidency and the early days of his time in office. While the challenges of each era in history are unique, there are also, arguably, some parallels to the crisis our nation now faces some 75+ years later. Time will tell how well our leaders have learned from the important lessons from this era of history.more
I would have given this a better rating but the title was very misleading so I finished the book slightly disappointed. The majority of the book was focused on President Roosevelt's back-story. It focused on his childhood and how it shaped his personality, his rise to political power, etc. His actual Hundred Days is not even focused on until Part 4 of the book (about a couple hundred pages into the book) and even then it almost seems like a summary.The background on FDR was interesting, but I thought it could have been pared down, since I thought the point of the book was to focus on his first year in office. Plus, I already know a great deal about FDR's history so I did not need the review.Also, this book did not focus on his legislation or anything close to that as much as I would have liked. The book was more about President Roosevelt's personality and disposition and how he manipulated his way into getting certain things.Even with these disappointments, I think this book is well-written and an exciting read. It has short chapters, which I liked, since it makes you feel like you are really reading a great deal. I would recommend this book to anyone who does not know much about President Roosevelt or anyone who is interested in President Roosevelt's temperament and how that affected his political life.more
Read all 13 reviews

Reviews

The man who STILL drives conservatives and libertarians bat-sh&t-nuts-crazy! Mr. Alter lays out just what FDR meant to the country. Alter, to his credit, makes this an exciting insightful read by concentrating on the intangible net-worth of FDR's confidence and his message of hope for a country knocked on its ass during the Great Depression.more
Those of us alive now have a difficult time understanding the degree of fear and uncertainty felt by people in 1933 when the banks were closing and they had no idea what the future held. One had to live through the time to know how it felt. Even then, some people soon forgot and started complaining about FDR’s efforts to fight the depression. They forgot that before FDR's inauguration may leading thinkers (including the respected columnist Walter Lippman) were encouraging him to assume dictatorial powers in order to save the nation. Conditions were so bad that some people speculated that the last time the world had a similar crisis it was followed by 400 years of "dark ages." And with the wrong people in leadership it could have turned into a dark age. Instead Franklin Roosevelt was able to lift the confidence of the nation. I can remember my father telling me about Roosevelt closing all the banks in the United States on his first day of being president. He felt FDR had saved the nation. Roosevelt was able to instill the needed confidence in the banks by promising that the banks that were allowed to open again would be safe. The bank’s conditions were reviewed and only the solvent bank’s were allowed to open. Then within weeks, people who had waited in line to get their money out of the bank were now waiting in line to put their money back in. There was no deposit insurance at the time, so the fear of banks failing was real. Ironically FDR was opposed to deposit insurance at the time. In hindsight it’s apparent that FDR, and most other people at the time, did not understand very much about economics. He sort of took action by intuition. The early New Deal program was actually operated by left over staff from the Hoover administration. Nevertheless, it is obvious that there is no way Herbert Hoover could have instilled the confidence in the banks the way the FDR did. The difference between recovery and disaster was psychological, but nevertheless it was a real difference.It’s interesting to note that on paper Hoover was much more qualified to be president than FDR. Which indicates that the most important trait needed to be president is charisma. Experience and administrative skill are not all that important for the top person; Others can do that stuff.The conclusion of this book is that FDR deserves credit for saving democracy, but not ending the depression. The depression was ended by World War II.more
I admit to reading this one because Obama was reading it and because so many pundits have been citing similarities between the Depression in the 30ies and Roosevelt’s first 100 days of New Deal legislation and the situation currently faced by our new president. I ended up seeing more differences than similarities between the two presidents and between the two situations—which doesn’t mean the book isn’t not only interesting but timely. By the way, I agree with the author that this time around 100 days won’t do it. And even with Roosevelt, as Alter says, his most significant legislation, Social Security, passed later in his Presidency.While the book tends to zero in on the 100 days, the author obviously found that, writing to a general audience, he had to give considerable background on Roosevelt—which he does in a series of short chapters which I found fun to read even though I’m fairly well read on Roosevelt the person and the president and have recently read a good complete biography (Edwards, FDR). In most chapters there was an anecdote or fact that I’d not heard before so I couldn’t accuse Alter of just regurgitating what other writers have written.Alter makes much of the comment by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that Roosevelt’s primary asset was not his mind but his “first class temperament”—that the title of the first book I read about Roosevelt (by Geoffrey Ward). However, Alter does honor the suggestion, made by Edwards among others, that it’s not clear whether Justice Holmes was talking about FDR or about Teddy Roosevelt. But temperament is an important issue in the book and timely because so many have noted that one of Obama’s greatest assets is what most call, these days, his “unflappability”. In temperament they may not be all that similar, but for both Obama and Roosevelt, likability is an important part of the appeal and the ability to talk to “the people” (not just the politicians) in a way that clarifies complex issues and involves the listener in solutions is of critical importance.Alter gives considerable space to Eleanor in this book too: her despair at giving up her privacy to become first lady, her discovery of a new and historically significant role for the first lady, and her function in keeping FDR in touch. Because of his paralysis, the extent of which the American people did not know, Roosevelt was more vulnerable to what we now call the “bubble” the President exists in. In the 30ies Eleanor began traveling the country and the world, going down in coal mines—and eventually into war zones—to talk to “ordinary Americans” and bringing her insights back to the President. From the first, Roosevelt recognized the danger that the President grow “out of touch”, reminding us that Obama’s fight to keep his Blackberry isn’t just his technology fix, but his recognition that Presidents can easily become bubble-dwellers.more
Jonathan Alter is great as a political commentator, and ditto writher.more
This was an excellent book to read during the first weeks of the Obama Presidency. On reading the book, I could tell that Obama was using the same techniques as FDR to manage the banking crisis. Of course, on reading the book, the crisis FDR faced was far more dire than the current one.Overall, the book showed FDR as more human and politically driven than any type of savior. He did things to make himself look good and manipulated the press for his own interest. His burdens were heavier, dealing with those who would ditch democacy and capitalism for socialism and fascism. Our faith in those systems are stronger now.more
Illuminating.Timely.Eminently readable.I read it because it's one of the books our new president is reading because, you know, our new president reads.From the start, I was learning. There were many details of the Depression of which I was unaware. It was troubling how many of them mirrored today's headlines. But do the solutions attempted during the Depression have any applicability to today's circumstances?Alter makes the argument that the key to the New Deal was the persona of the newly elected president and his willingness to basically just keep throwing darts at the dart board. According to Alter, Roosevelt didn't have so much a vision regarding what to do as a drive to simply do something. The appearance of activity went a long way in creating optimism.Alter creates a revealing, well-balanced portrait of FDR. While his focus is the first 100 days of FDR's presidency, he provides plenty of lead in and follow up which gives the reader a solid overview of the entire era and a great deal of detail about the defining moment.more
An important book to read right now. The good years of the 1950s and 60s were built upon the foundation laid by FDR. Few people realize how close America came to complete collapse in 1933, or how crucial FDR's actions were in saving the capitalist system.more
The history of the U.S. is at another defining moment, as a new President prepares to take office who has the potential to be as transformative a leader as Lincoln or FDR. That is one reason I'm reading books about both FDR and Lincoln, to see what lessons their experiences provide us in another moment of national crisis.Alter is a senior editor at Newsweek and analyst for NBC news. He has put together an excellent work here that concentrates on the first 100 days of FDR's presidency. He does cover Roosevelt's life before the inaugaration, briefly, but with an emphasis on traits that helped FDR be probably the only man in the running who could have made things better to any real extent.Alter emphasizes some of the same things as others, including the effect the polio had in deepening Roosevelt's determination and compassion for others. Some things he talks about are not emphasized much in other bios, such as the attempted assassination in Miami in February 1932. Roosevelt was not injured, but Chicago mayor Anton Cermak was and eventually died of his wounds. At some point Cermak was put into the car next to Roosevelt who held and encouraged him until they reached the hospital. It had a galvanizing effect on public opinion of Roosevelt, who had been seen as rather weak and vacillating prior to this. Nevertheless, it was not an easy campaign and he almost did not get the nomination.One of the other big surprises is that Roosevelt was at first fairly conventional, determined to cut government spending and raise taxes in order to improve the economy... the things almost everyone in both parties were saying to do. He didn't have strongly held convictions on what to do, and some of the legislation of that first 100 days were cobbled together at the last minute and wererather a hodgepodge of ideas. FDR's genius was in part a willingness to try anything and see what worked and what didn't, a conviction that action of any kind was better than non-action. That, coupled with his genius for communicating, helped people recover their belief that things would get better, which by itself helped make things better.Alter's book is well-written, and incredibly well-researched. His bibliography is a masterpiece, and includes not only books, but document collections, interviews, and newspapers and magazines. He wrote this book as much as possible from primary materials, and found some resources in archives that haven't previously been used in works on FDR. Excellent and recommended book, with, in my opinion, good lessons for Obama..more
Jonathan Alter, senior editor at Newsweek, and frequent contributor at MSNBC has written an excellent book about the rise and early presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt entitled 'The Defining Moment.' In concise yet articulate chapters Alter paints a compelling portrait of FDR, ther president who took the helm at what was, up until that point, the direst financial and societal crisis the nation had seen perhaps since the Civil War, and certainly in the 20th century.Now known as 'The Great Depression,' America was plunged into crisis after the great stock crash of 1929. The downward spiral was arguably exacerbated and accelerated by the failed policies of Herbert Hoover. Enter FDR.Roosevelt had worked his way up to serve as secretary of the Navy in the mid 1920s. At that time Al Smith was the governor of New York. Smith, in some ways, saw FDR as his heir apparent to the governorship in NY. He also felt threatened by him.Smith had strong ties to the Tammany Hall group that had dominated NY city politics for decades but were suspect and corrupt in the eyes of many not within their circle. As the 1930s began, Alter describes how Roosevelt took on Tammany Hall and even launched an investigation against the NYC mayor, culminating in the mayor resigning under suspicion. This brazen challenging of the regional status quo helped make a name for FDR, and added momentum to his candidacy for president.As it turned out, FDR ended up battling Smith for the Democratic nomination in 1932. This was an uphill battle, as Smith, while waning in popularity with the electorate, tightly controlled the party leadership that got out the vote and controlled the convention.In Alter's nuanced portrait we see not only the glad-handing, smiling, congenial FDR who overcame obstacles and his disability. We also see a shrewd political maneuverer who knew how to say what needed to be said to win voter confidence, while also staying several steps ahead of his political adversaries. He showed great skill at gaining political advantage.Roosevelt faced significant challenges along the way. One of his greatest challenges was his battle with illness. At the age of 39 he developed a mysterious fever while on vacation. He did not seek treatment right away and ended up with a crippling case of polio. As president-elect, he also was the target of a botched assassination attempt.His handlers and assistants worked vigorously to keep FDR from being portrayed as weak. He was not allowed to be photographed either in a wheelchair or being carried. When he made his way to the rostrum at the convention, he strode up on his son's arm along with a cane.One of the key turning points in his recuperation was his trips to Warm Springs, Georgia. He found the waters there to be therapeutic and also found renewed confidence through his time there. Alter asserts that FDR's bout with polio also sensitized him to the plight of the disabled and destitute and, in part, influenced some of the sweeping social reforms of the New Deal.One of the greatest sources of strength for Franklin, though was his wife Eleanor. They had their share of challenges, and according to Alter were on the verge of her considering divorce due to his infidelity. She rallied behind him, though, and was an effective and persuasive campaigner. Alter mentions one story where protesters had gathered outside the White House and Eleanor went out to serve them tea, listen to their concerns and diffuse a potentially ugly situation.Once in office, FDR initiated the New Deal- which, while unpopular with conservatives to this day, arguably helped get the U.S. economy and workforce back on its feet. It also promoted greater equity in wages and benefits for American workers through programs like the National Recovery Administration and social security.Roosevelt also became well known for his 'fireside chats,' one of which Alter includes in the appendix. These periodic radio broadcasts were the first time a president had addressed the American people in a conversational style through mass media.Overall, Alter's book is excellent, readable and very thoughtfully written. There are no new or earth-shattering revelations, but the book offers a thoughtful overview of Roosevelt's ascension to the presidency and the early days of his time in office. While the challenges of each era in history are unique, there are also, arguably, some parallels to the crisis our nation now faces some 75+ years later. Time will tell how well our leaders have learned from the important lessons from this era of history.more
I would have given this a better rating but the title was very misleading so I finished the book slightly disappointed. The majority of the book was focused on President Roosevelt's back-story. It focused on his childhood and how it shaped his personality, his rise to political power, etc. His actual Hundred Days is not even focused on until Part 4 of the book (about a couple hundred pages into the book) and even then it almost seems like a summary.The background on FDR was interesting, but I thought it could have been pared down, since I thought the point of the book was to focus on his first year in office. Plus, I already know a great deal about FDR's history so I did not need the review.Also, this book did not focus on his legislation or anything close to that as much as I would have liked. The book was more about President Roosevelt's personality and disposition and how he manipulated his way into getting certain things.Even with these disappointments, I think this book is well-written and an exciting read. It has short chapters, which I liked, since it makes you feel like you are really reading a great deal. I would recommend this book to anyone who does not know much about President Roosevelt or anyone who is interested in President Roosevelt's temperament and how that affected his political life.more
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