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Roosevelt's visit to the UC campus in 1936

by Barbara Blum

Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited UC on Oct. 16, 1936, less than three weeks before he would be up for re-election to his second term as president. Ultimately, he would defeat Alf Landon by a landslide, with more than 60 percent of the popular vote.

What follows are the remarks FDR made from an open car inside the UC football stadium. FDR was on the campaign trail, but, clearly, times have changed political rhetoric. His speech also invites comparison to modern times -- with today's government bailouts and high unemployment.

To clarify points in the speech, we offer these facts: UC's Nippert Stadium had just undergone a renovation in 1936 -- lowering the playing field 12 feet to allow spectator seating to increase to 24,000. The Social Security Act had been passed the year before in August 1935. Many public works projects had put people back to work. The U.S. unemployment rate in 1932 was 23.6 percent; in 1936 it was 16.9 percent.

FDR's remarks at University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium

Oct. 16, 1936

What is a little rain between friends? I am very glad to come to Cincinnati. I am very glad this morning to have seen some of the work with which the federal government has been able to help, first that slum clearance project and then the bridge and now this stadium.

I think all of you understand why the federal government has helped in work of this kind. In the first place, as we all know, we had an unemployment situation three years ago which was so imperative to remedy that we simply had to put people to work. Then came the question of finding the best kind of work for them, and that was put up to the localities.

The communities -- the cities and counties -- throughout the United States told us what they most needed. And so the great bulk of the money that has been spent to give people jobs has been usefully spent, and spent at the request and upon the suggestion of the different States and municipalities of the Nation.

You know, I am sure, that this has aided very much in the national recovery which we have had during the past three years. There is not a merchant, or manufacturer, or professional man, or industrial worker, or wage earner in this whole city, I am sure, who does not say that things are better than they were.

And most of them know, too, that the recovery did not just happen of its own accord. It had to have the active help of government.

And so today, my friends, in going around the country, I see tremendous improvement on every side.

We are also attempting to give a greater security to the nation in the days to come. We are thinking about our children. We are thinking about fathers and mothers in their old age. We are thinking of greater permanency of jobs. All of these are objectives which modern civilization has delayed too long in taking up. But we have made a good start in taking them up.

By security, I do not mean just a living, just having enough to eat and a place to sleep. I mean a living according to the American standard — a standard which provides a decent diet, a decent education and a reasonable amount of leisure and recreation. That is why projects like this stadium that serve the enjoyment of people — just for sheer good times — are just as worthwhile as building bridges and stopping floods.

That kind of security, as we see it, applies not only to people with respect to their own individual family lives, but ought to apply to their occupations and ought to apply to the businesses which employ them.

That is why we are trying to make it a rounded picture — something that will affect not merely one part of the country but something that will affect every kind of occupation and business.

And so, my friends, on November 3rd, which is not so very far off, we are going to have the issue presented to us: Shall we continue in the future, as we have been doing, to try to attain greater human security? I am not the least bit worried about the result.

Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Remarks at Cincinnati, Ohio," October 16, 1936. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

(Added December 2011)