When Roosevelt took office in March 4, 1933, the country was in shambles; there was no work to be found anywhere, and thirteen to fifteen million Americans were unemployed. On top of that, half of these people wandered around the country looking for work, and thirty-eight states had been forced to close their banks because of crowds come to withdraw their money. Of course, there was no money to be had, as the banks either invested their customers' money in the stock market or had loaned most of the money to those who had lost it in the market. Many poor families which had been hit hard by the Depression already were living in "Hoovervilles", communities of houses made from crates, boxes, or other materials lying around, and it was a happy day when the children, wandering the streets, were able to find a dime, nickel, or even a penny. Robberies were frequent, people mugged on the streets for a piece of bread. For most people, the Roaring Twenties were no more than a pleasant dream.

Even though the situation looked desperate, Roosevelt was confident he could restore the country's prosperity if he could but calm the people down. In his First Inaugural Address, he made this clear by bluntly stating perhaps the most famous words that he has ever uttered: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Although his First Inaugural Address was received with wild enthusiasm, Roosevelt knew he would need more than cheers to pull America out of its grave difficulties. So, in his "first hundred days", the period which historically sets the mood of a Presidency, he closed all of the banks, declaring a "bank holiday", and called an emergency Congress session, where he secured an emergency banking bill. The bill, instead of nationalizing the banks as expected, gave aid to the private banker. Three days later, he lost no time in proposing an Economy Act which cut large sums from government payments to veterans and federal employees, hereby hurting purchasing power. It was accepted solely due to his unwavering determination and persuasive powers.

A fighter by nature, FDR was always contriving faster, more effective ways to ease the country's suffering: One thing he did was help the average debtor by removing the gold standard; At that time, each dollar bill was supposed to be worth a certain amount of gold or silver, but Roosevelt decided it would suit his purpose better if gold or silver no longer backed the dollar. He also lent five hundred million dollars in federal relief grants to states and local agencies. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), headed by Harry Hopkins, quickly spent the money, thereby aiding many states and twice as many agencies. By 1935, the FERA had given out 1.5 billion dollars in direct grants and work relief under the Civil Work Administration (CWA).

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was another of Roosevelt's suggestions to the Congress, along with the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), and the Public Works Administration (PWA). These, also parts of the New Deal, ultimately aimed at easing the suffering of those who needed it most: minorities and the unemployed. The CCC ultimately employed more than 2.5 million adolescent boys with valuable work, while the HOLC offered aid to mortgagers and home owners. The PWA, though slow, succeeded in gradually putting billions into large projects, and while there were a great many critics that disapproved of Roosevelt's way of things, for most Americans there appeared a light at the end of the tunnel which they thought they would never again see. So, for all its flaws, the New Deal had jolted America out of its panic and into a state of usefulness that was slowly pulling it out of its ditch.