The other day I was watching TV and I saw back to back commercials that made reference to FDR’s speech that says the only thing to fear is fear itself. (One commercials was for the Google phone and one was for the movie Gravity.)
That made me realize that I know very little about that speech. Sure I know the famous line about fear, but that is all I could tell you about what FDR said.
So I decided to look it up. And I am very glad that I did.
The quote comes from FDR’s first Inaugural Address when he became president in 1932. In addition to the one about fear, this speech contained many other great lines that I found very motivational. Here is a top 10 list I created with lines from that speech.
Top 10 Quotes From FDR’s First Inaugural Address:
10. “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.”
In any time of fear and struggle it is important to remember that you have endured, you will endured and things will get better. The time of FDR’s speech was a rough period for America. But FDR knew he needed to install confidence in people by reminding them that America has endured in the past. Similarly, when faced with adversity, we need to remember that we’ve handled adversity in the past and we can do it again.
9. “There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it.”
Following up on #10, we can’t just sit back and wait for things to get better just because they were better in the past. It does no good merely to sit back and talk about the good ol’ days.
8. “Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”
Now that #9 taught us that talk is cheap, what do we do next? We act! FDR tells the people that we need action and we need it now. Fear can become crippling when we do nothing about it. But when we act against it, fear begins to shrink. Don’t sit back and let fear grow. Take action and fear becomes less intimidating.
7. “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
Often we fear of not having enough money. But we need to remember that happiness isn’t dictated by how much money we have. I love the lines of “joy of achievement” and “thrill of creative effort.” I don’t know about you, but reading those makes me want to go out and create something and achieve something.
6. “In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things.”
If your biggest fear is money, FDR says you should be thankful it is only something material. Of all the difficult things people are faced with everyday, money isn’t all that bad. Money is nothing compared to violence, abuse, and disease.
5. “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.”
Fear can cause you to lie to yourself. Fear will make you convinced something is true when it is not. In times of fear you must speak the truth frankly and boldly. If you are starting a new business fear will say you are not qualified. Speak boldly and tell yourself that you are qualified.
4. “Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.”
I think FDR would be a fan of Thankful Thursdays. He knew the importance of being thankful. I am sure FDR was thankful for George Washington and everything he did for his country. Someone ahead of us has already conquered the fear we are presently faced with. For example, if you are afraid of heights, know that there are hundreds of stories of people who have overcome that same fear. Those people survived and so can we. Fear is not undefeated. We should be thankful for all the people that have gained victories over fear.
3. “These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”
It’s hard to accept, but fear and failure are not all bad. When we learn and grow from the experience, we turn fear and failure into a positive. It would be great to learn all lessons without having a rough patch. But that is never going to happen. Life is not always sunny. There are rainy days. But like FDR says, the dark days are worth all they cost when they teach us our true destiny. And what a great destiny it is to minister to ourselves and our fellow men (and women).
2. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.”
I love this quote because it doesn’t say there is no unsolvable problem…the end. It says, there is no unsolvable problem IF we face it wisely and courageously. To be courageous and wise in the face of fear can be difficult, but it is essential. Fear is stronger than the dumb and timid, but it can’t handle the wise and courageous!
1. “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Of course this was going to be number one. Is it the headliner of the speech for a reason. Fear of fear itself can be difficult to understand. But what I think FDR means is that we make fear stronger when we dwell on it. The more we think about fear, the more it grows and grows. Eventually it becomes paralyzing if we let it. FDR says we need to advance instead of retreat. If you take the lessons from 10-2 on this list, you have some pretty good ways to advance and some great reasons not to dwell on fear.
If you would like to hear and read FDR’s speech, you can find it here.