President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office while the nation was going through very difficult times. The Great Depression hit by the end of the 1920’s and hope for a brighter future and economic growth had been shattered. People lost all their money and it seemed that things would never get better.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt that it was his responsibility to fix the mess. He knew that nothing was going to be achieved without a transparent communication with the American people. The communication addressed everything that was happening at the time. It also addressed what was going to be done to fix the situation. Roosevelt communicated through a series of radio speeches called “fireside chats.”
Why were they called fireside chats?
Although the President delivered the fireside chats while sitting at his disk, the American people listened to the speeches while sitting in their living rooms next to their fireplace. Therefore, the name was actually in reference to the audience, not the President himself. FDR also gave those speeches in an informal, laidback tone and language to have a better effect and easily reach those who are listening.
Although the topics of the fireside chats were the Great Depression, the Midwest drought, unemployment, and other serious topics, the President was able to convey his messages very smoothly. Those chats became a source of information and news for the people. The chats became so popular that it turned into family time. The family would gather around the radio to listen to FDR.
The beginning of the Fireside Chats
The first fireside chat aired in 1933 only a few days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office. In this speech, the President explained to the people the crisis of the banking system collapse. He clearly explained what banks are, how they are supposed to work, and what caused the problem. Since he was about to start the “bank holiday” and close all the banks for days in order to reopen them under the supervision of the Federal government, he had to explain to the people exactly what was going to happen to avoid any panic or adverse reactions from the public. The speech was a success as the people understood what the new president was about to do and, when banks opened again, the public trust in the banking system started to come back.
World War II begins
Once World War II began, it became almost the only topic of the fireside chats. News of the war was delivered by the President himself. He also advised the American people on how to deal with the limited resources. In 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt came on the radio to inform the American people that the U.S. was going to join the Allied Powers. He advised every family listening to have a map of the world to be able to follow the battles the American soldiers were fighting against the Nazis and the Axis Powers.