American SocialHistory Project · Center forMedia and Learning
President Roosevelt Calls for Equal Economic Opportunity
On June 27, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt accepted the Democratic party's nomination to run for a second term as President of the U.S. In this excerpt from his speech to the Democratic National Convention, Roosevelt compares the struggle to gain economic equality to the American Revolution's fight for political equality and defends the role of the federal government in insuring economic opportunity to all citizens.
…. For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor – other people's lives. For too many of us throughout the land, life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could only appeal to the organized power of Government. We well remember that the collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.
The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.
Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.
These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power….
Source | Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, June 27, 1936; full audio available at Miller Center for Public Affairs, University of Virginia, http://millercenter.org/blog/fdr-1936-convention-speech Creator | Franklin Delano Roosevelt Item Type | Speech Cite This document | Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “President Roosevelt Calls for Equal Economic Opportunity,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 16, 2021, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/2023.