President Roosevelt began his presidency with the country in the depths of the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history, when unemployment peaked at 25 percent. Roosevelt had won a landslide victory over incumbent President Herbert Hoover and used this popular mandate to announce swift and decisive action to deal with the crisis.
Roosevelt also used the bullying pulpit to criticize those he blamed for the failures in the economy: large corporations and banks – “through their own stubbornness and incompetence” – and his Oval Office predecessor, of whom the speech was “implicit with criticism. “
However, throughout the address, the President also offered hope to Americans who were approaching their darkest hour, and delivered one of the most famous maxims in the history of the American Presidency.
This great nation will stand as it endured, will revive and flourish. First, let me reiterate my firm conviction that the only thing we need to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasonable, unjustified terror that cripples the efforts needed to turn withdrawal into progress.
John F. Kennedy, 1961- “Ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign was dominated by the Cold War issue. His inaugural address reflected this overarching theme while at the same time touching on the strengthening of global alliances and “a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself”.
Kennedy focused particularly on poverty throughout the speech, pledging aid to those “struggling around the world to break the bonds of mass misery,” although it may not be in the direct interests of the United States.
The address also produced Kennedy’s most memorable quote, in which he called upon Americans and the world community to serve the common good at an important point in history.
And so, fellow Americans, don’t ask what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask, not what America will do for you, but what we can together do for human freedom.