Franklin Roosevelt As A Child


Patricia Truslow, Contributor

| updated

Copy Link Code

franklin roosevelt as a childAs the only child of a wealthy New York family, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sheltered. Born in 1882 to James and Sarah Roosevelt, young Franklin was educated by governesses and private tutors until he attended the prestigious private school, The Groton School, when he was fourteen-years-old.

As a child, Roosevelt loved athletics, particularly swimming and boating, and he was an avid stamp collector and bird-watcher. A shy boy, FDR's childhood consisted of many hours spent without other children while he pursued these hobbies on the Hyde Park estate he shared with his older father and younger mother. His summers consisted of trips to Europe and spending a large part of the summer at the family's home on Campobello Island. Franklin Roosevelt's childhood was one of privilege. His father was devoted to him and his mother coddled him, resulting in a closeness that lasted until she died in 1941, just four years before FDR passed away.

Franklin Roosevelt's childhood days spent on the vast estate contributed to his lifelong love of forestry, which would later play an integral role in the programs he fostered to protect America's natural resources and in the improvements he made at his childhood home. He had a deep love for the Hudson Valley of New York, for farming and for rural people, which would also fuel his desire to keep agriculture and the trading of farm goods central to the nation's economy.

Once Roosevelt entered The Groton School, he realized that he was a popular kid, but he was also a poor student, which he gingerly kept from his mother. His letters home often spoke of his accomplishments in athletics and academics, many of which were greatly exaggerated. Classmates in later years remembered the young Roosevelt as an outgoing and unreserved studen who knew how to use these characteristics to his advantage; he could talk himself out of any situation with his gift of gab. One teacher recalled going on a biking trip of Germany with young Roosevelt, during which they were often arrested for traffic violations. FDR talked his way out of receiving a ticket each of those times.

His years at Groton instilled in Roosevelt a strong sense of public service and civic responsibility, promoted by the headmaster, Endicott Peabody, as he and FDR grew to be close friends. Another powerful influence in this vein came from his progressive-thinking, Republican cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he used as a figurehead as his own political career advanced. Many of Franklin Roosevelt's political approaches and positions were based on his uncle's ideology.

After finishing school at Groton when he was eighteen, FDR enrolled in Harvard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. From there, he attended Columbia Law School, but never received a degree, although he passed the New York bar. As a college student, Roosevelt spent more time socializing than studying and spending money freely while he was away from the watchful eye of his mother.

Despite his somewhat sheltered and elite childhood, Roosevelt's personality, consideration for the less fortunate and his gift for gab helped form him into one of the most successful and popular politicians in American history.