Roosevelt: Amending the constitution

In a previous article, I talked about exceptional US president Franklin Roosevelt, the only president who won the presidency four times (1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944). This had never happened before him, even though the constitution did not disallow it.

First president George Washington had made it a tradition that the president would rule for two terms only, i.e. a total of eight years. Most American presidents who came after him followed this, even though some unsuccessfully ran for presidency for a third term — like president Ulysses Grant in 1880 and President Theodore Roosevelt, who is a relative of Franklin, in 1912.

Although Franklin Roosevelt won four terms as president, it was an exceptional feat as the US was going through a tough phase due to the economic recession and World War II.

It is remarkable that Roosevelt, who belonged to an aristocratic family from New York, had poliomyelitis. Since he was in power before the age of the television, he managed to hide this ailment from the American people

Ahmad al-Farraj

Roosevelt's four terms

There was a huge controversy in the US, before and after Franklin’s death, about the appropriate duration for a single president’s rule. This was widely discussed by legislators in congress — both in the House of Representatives and the Senate — and by the media, the US citizens and even the president who succeeded Roosevelt, Harry Truman.

Truman’s story is strange as he was a regular politician, elected by the Missouri State to the Senate, and his ultimate ambition was to serve in the Senate until his retirement. He was chosen by Roosevelt to be his vice president when he was elected for the fourth time in 1945. Roosevelt only stayed in the White House for a few months before he died and Truman (as vice president) succeeded him as the US constitution stipulates!

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It is remarkable that Roosevelt, who belonged to an aristocratic family from New York, had poliomyelitis. Since he was in power before the age of the television, he managed to hide this ailment from the American people.

In fact, his assistants managed to make him appear proper in front of the people. As for his speeches, he delivered them via radio and sounded distinguished on account of his sonorous and strong voice. He died a few months after winning the elections for the fourth time, which means that he was elected although he was already sick and exhausted.

The US constitution was amended after his death, and this Twenty-Second Amendment limited one president’s duration to two terms, which means a total of eight years. In 1951, this amendment was adopted, which means it is now impossible for any president to rule the US for a similar duration as the exceptional president Franklin Roosevelt!

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Dr. Ahmad al-Farraj is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah daily. He holds a Masters degree in literature from the University of Indiana and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He was the Dean of the Arabic Language Institute in King Saud University and a member of the university’s council. He tweets under @amhfarraj.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:02 - GMT 11:02
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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