FDR's New Deal

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11259

Can the government solve problems by throwing (tax) money at them? FDR thought so. Was he successful? Many of his programs are still around. Evaluate Social Security yourself (before you need it!).


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Both of these statues are of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  • What differences do you notice?

statues of FDR

Most notably, in the first image, FDR has a barely-visible cane that he is only slightly using, while the second statue portrays him in his wheelchair.

After serving as a state senator, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920, Roosevelt contracted polio that left his legs paralyzed.

Following that time, he was elected governor of New York and, in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, FDR became the president of the United States. The press was discouraged from photographing him in his wheelchair because he worried about the biases of the time.

He did not want the American people to perceive him as weak, especially during a time when they needed a strong leader. FDR went on to serve 12 years as president, and many of his policies were so influential that they still exist today.

As a Democrat, FDR took great measures to use the federal government as part of his New Deal. He did nominate two Republicans to serve in his Cabinet, as well as Frances Perkins, who became the first woman Cabinet member.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Broadcasting his First Fireside Chat Regarding the Banking Crisis from the White House

FDR set a precedent when he and Congress passed and implemented many new laws during his First Hundred Days (Today, presidents are often assessed after their first hundred days in office). The New Deal was his plan to lessen the impacts of the Great Depression and reform institutions that caused the banks to fail and the stock market to crash.

The New Deal included three goals: relief, recovery, and reform. Visit The Great Depression: Lesson 4 to read a description of each of these measures. Then, scroll down and try the New Deal Program activity. Click a New Deal program, read the full description, and decide if you think it is classified as relief, recovery, or reform.

One piece of reform legislation created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which insured bank deposits up to $5,000. Today, the FDIC insures up to $250,000 in deposits per individual depositor.

This was intended to restore confidence in the banks. When the stock market crashed, people rushed to the banks to withdraw their money. The money was not backed by the federal government, and many banks closed, causing people to lose their savings.

In 1933, The Securities Act was passed, which was a precursor to the 1934 establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Securities Exchange Commission was created not just as a body that serves to regulate the stock market — it holds accountability over public companies offering securities, requiring them to provide honest information to investors.

The Securities Exchange Commission also plays a huge role in the oversight of broker, dealer, and exchange practices to ensure fairness.

Take a look at this FDR Timeline to learn more about other laws created to reestablish a well-organized banking and trade system, as well as laws that employed people and created standards in employment.

New Deal NRA 3cent 1933 issue US stamp

President Roosevelt needed support from Congress to get his legislation passed. During his run for election, President Roosevelt is noted as saying:

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!"

  • How might have Roosevelt's past struggles with becoming paralyzed shaped his personality?

While many Americans applauded Roosevelt's efforts, opposition to the New Deal emerged.

Elected officials will have their critics. Some people openly disliked New Deal programs. Brainstorm reasons why Americans may have been against FDR's actions.

Move on to the Got It? section to graphically examine the New Deal.

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