Chapter 4: “Rugged Individualism” vs. “Bold, Persistent Experimentation”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Acceptance Speech at the 1932 Democratic Convention
Franklin Roosevelt – The Commonwealth Club Speech
Herbert Hoover – “Rugged Individualism” Speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden
Few elections have done more to change the destiny of the United States than the 1932 race for the White House between President Herbert Hoover and his Democratic challenger Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At the height of the nation’s greatest economic calamity the American people were offered a clear and unambiguous choice between the “rugged individualism” of Herbert Hoover and the “bold, persistent experimentation” of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal for the American people.” Not surprisingly they chose the sunny optimism of Roosevelt vs. the dour pessimism of Hoover. The result was an election victory that would transform the way Americans not only viewed the government, but their expectations of it. The modern welfare state was born out of the crucible of the 1932 race for the White House as Americans began a century-long dalliance with government activism. The debate captured in these speeches remains crucial to understanding the central divide between Democrats and Republicans over the appropriate role of responsibilities of the federal government.