What’s the Deal with the First 100 Days, and Why Does it Matter?

January 19, 2021

Illustration of the White House with text that says What's The Deal With The First 100 Days of a Presidency?

What’s the deal with the first 100 days of a presidency? Each time a new president is inaugurated, everybody starts talking about the importance of the first 100 days. But... why?

It started with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was elected at the height of the Great Depression and wanted all Americans to know that he was going to get to work right away to improve their lives.

Right now, as the new Biden administration takes office, we’re facing challenges not seen since FDR’s time. Read on to find out what we hope President Biden will focus on during his first 100 days.


The First First 100 Days

President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to office in 1933, which was an exceptionally difficult year in the history of this country. The stock market had cratered in 1929, and by 1933 15 million people were out of work and nearly half of the banks in the US had failed.

FDR wanted to reassure Americans that he was going to take quick, decisive action. And he absolutely delivered. His first 100 days included tons of enormously effective and popular programs, legislation, and public-works projects (part of his New Deal) to get the country working again. All presidents since then have been measured against this standard.


Where We Are Today

As President Biden settles into the White House, some extraordinarily difficult challenges are waiting for him. FDR would no doubt sympathize.

  • A global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and impacted all of our lives
  • An economic collapse that has led to millions of people losing their jobs and wondering how to pay for food and rent
  • The climate crisis that’s responsible for more and more extreme weather and (un)natural disasters every year
  • Racial injustice and systemic racism that mean Black and Brown Americans have been hit hardest by all of the above 

And add to all that the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by an insurrectionist, white-supremacist mob incited by former President Trump and others.


Why We’re Hopeful

That’s… a lot (and, really, the list goes on and on). But we’re feeling hopeful that the new administration is up to the task. Let’s start with the people President Biden is putting in key positions. His cabinet will be the most diverse in our nation’s history. For the first time ever, there are as many women as there are men. And also for the first time, people of color make up the majority of the cabinet. Given all the challenges we’re up against, it’s absolutely essential to have people with different backgrounds and lived experiences there to make decisions that impact all of us.

The president and his team have pledged to take action on two of the most pressing challenges—the economy and the pandemic—on day one, by

  • Pushing a new and much larger COVID relief and economic stimulus package through Congress quickly
  • Taking immediate steps to slow the spread of the virus and accelerate vaccine distribution to the states

President Biden has also made addressing the climate crisis one of his administration’s priorities, emphasizing the importance of climate and environmental justice and the opportunity to build back from the pandemic with a green recovery. Finally, he made it clear that he wants his administration to deal head-on with systemic racism. And he backed that up by adding systemic racism experts to his transition team and cabinet.


Why We Need to Stay Engaged

So, yes, we’re definitely hopeful. A successful first 100 days would provide critical aid and assistance to millions of people, not to mention lift everybody’s spirits. But it’s up to us to make sure that the new administration follows through on its promises—now and throughout the next four years.

Plus, we’ve got some additional items that we definitely think should be on the president’s to-do list:

We’ve all been through a lot lately, but look at what we’ve accomplished! We had record-breaking voter turnout this election, especially among young voters, and it made a huge difference. There’s a lot to do, but we can make it happen. So let’s stay active and engaged and use our voice to make sure this is the most powerful first 100 days in history! Take the first step here by calling for a transformation of policing and public safety.