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Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat
Addresses from the White House have been a standard occurrence since most of us
remember listening to one. Some have been delivered at a time of prosperity and peace,
but others had a tired, grim audience hanging on every word. To address a nation during
war, loss, financial instability or any other danger, must be a grueling task for any person.
For Frederick Delano Roosevelt, his entire presidency involved having tough
conversations with his listeners. By the time he had been sworn in as President, the United
States was already feeling, in full force, the effects of an economic depression. A nation
that had, up until that point, thrive economically, was going under a period of serious
instability, debt and famine. The Fireside Chat became common, as a way for him to keep
the people aware of the measures that were being put in place to combat the situation.
The Address of May 7, 1933, was one of these chats.
The second of these conversations, the Address of May 7 was given nine weeks after
President Roosevelt had taken the seat. In the short period of time, he had managed to
ensure bipartisan collaboration to tackle the issue, pass forward legislation to ease the
situation, create a significant amount of jobs and reform through this legislation, and it
was still not enough. The United States had been hit in every vital market it owned:
farming, industry, transportation. The banks were failing; refusing to let the people have
access to their savings, declining loans and credits, and closing in on mortgages to aid in
their own crisis. There was not a sector of Industry that had not been affected, so every
piece of legislation that targeted one specific sector was not going to cut it. Though it is
understandable that large-scale change can rarely be done efficiently during a short
amount of time, the measures could have been broader in their scope. Still, Roosevelt was
working to find a solution and the addresses were meant to keep the American people
updated as often as possible.
Before going into the details of the reform that Roosevelt was planning, I feel it is
important to speak about Roosevelt’s reasons for approaching the matter as he did. He
mentions in the opening, referencing the previous address that had been given: “I think
that in that way I made clear to the country various facts that might otherwise have been
misunderstood and in general provided a means of understanding which did much to
restore confidence.” (Roosevelt, 1933). Though it is a short remark, through it we can see
the President’s understanding that it is impossible to put forth any change, and expect the
people to comply with it, if there is no confidence between the people and their
government. President Roosevelt served as the most frontal figure of government, and as
such, he had to make sure to engage the audience in a way that made them trust his actions
In times of economic turmoil, it is not rare to see uprisings and riots, by those who have
been affected the most by the crisis, as a last-resort attempt at getting their leader’s
attention. Though he may have not been explicitly doing these chats as a means to deter
public unrest, they were still going to have such an effect. What would make them most
effective in this regard, in my opinion, is the inclusion, in relative detail, of some of the
legislations and policies that the government was implementing. It is easier to ask for
patience from a crowd when you detail all the things you’re doing as you work towards
the main, collective goal. The measures that Roosevelt spoke about, too, addressed some
of the concerns of the citizenship, and would have made them felt included in the
narrative. Politically, the chats served as a way for Roosevelt to maintain his presence
known amongst the people and thus secure his position as leader of the free world. His
involvement in the dealings with Congress and the international negotiations that are
mentioned on the address, help solidify this position. Which, in turn, will actually help
him get the support he needs to move forward with his plans for restoration.
It should also be noted that Roosevelt, during these addresses, did not present his
information in a mann...