Roosevelt enjoyed a privileged background; he lived in Hyde Park, which suggests he didn’t really experience the feeling of suffering from having no money. He was an only child and lived with his parents. He was educated by private tutors until he was fourteen and he then went to the famous public school, Groton, and after that he attended Harvard University and got a degree in Law. He married his cousin Eleanor Roosevelt after one year of graduating from Harvard; this suggests that he didn’t mix with the middle or lower classes of America because he has married someone from his same class, upper class.
All this suggests that Roosevelt’s upbringing did not help him understand the ordinary Americans. When Roosevelt entered politics in 1910 as a democratic because of the family name, he didn’t ‘impress’ everyone because when he was younger he was described as a “serious man who was not very pleasant”. And Ben Walsh claims that, “Other members of the New York state senate avoided Roosevelt”. But he later on changed their minds and when his political career was going to take off in 1921 when he was 39, Roosevelt was diagnosed with Polio because; he had been fighting a forest fire and swimming at his summer home on Campobello Island.
He was then paralysed from the waist down. His recovery was slow and tremendously hard work, “I spent 2 years in bed trying to move my big toe,” Roosevelt had said. He recovered in 1928 though not fully because he needed the aid of painful iron leg braces, meaning he could only stand for short periods of time. This experience of near death and suffering had transformed him from an aristocrat of 1920 into the magnetic leader of 1932. In the 1910’s no one would have guessed that Roosevelt would become the leader he became;
Frances Perkins wrote, “He was not charming. He rarely smiled and had an unfortunate habit of throwing his head up. This, combined with his great height, gave him the appearance of looking down his nose at most people”. This suggests that Roosevelt did not have a very appealing character, this also reflects on what I said earlier, “Other members of the New York state senate avoided Roosevelt” both the quotes strongly support the fact that people may have been scared of him or detested him because of the appearance of him looking down at them.
Not much of Roosevelt’s upbringing, background or character helped him win over the hearts of the American people, or help him understand ordinary Americans. This was only up until 1921 when he was diagnosed with polio, which he contracted after swimming and putting out a forest fire near his summer home. Only after his suffering of this effect of the disease to Roosevelt understand how it felt to be useless and ‘at the bottom of the economic pyramid’, to a certain extent and also disabled, was Roosevelt able to understand the ordinary Americans. Which means only his character as of after 1921 helped him succeed.