First Fireside Chat
March 12, 1933
When on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office, he faced the most dangerous crisis in the history of the nation since 1861. The stock market crash of 1929 had set off what proved to be the deepest and longest depression Americans had ever endured; one that afflicted alike farmers, workers, businessmen and bankers. What this crisis called for was action as swift and decisive as would be taken in time of war. Roosevelt asked for, and took, that action. Before the day was over he had declared a national Bank Holiday, called Congress into special session, directed the Federal Reserve to apply its full resources to saving and opening the banks, and foreshadowed a robust program of relief and reform. Then he turned to the nation to explain - in language that all could understand. This was the first of his “Fireside Chats,” one of FDR’s many strokes of political genius. For although the radio had been available for some twelve years, Roosevelt was the first President to take full advantage of it. He used it with a consummate skill which no later president ever achieved. His first address, March 12, 1933, set the pattern for the whole series of thirty-one. It was simple, almost homely, but never undignified; it explained in terms that everyone could understand, the problems and the actions which he proposed to take. In fact, it made no concessions to popular idiom. It was through these fatherly talks to the American people that Roosevelt reached a rapport with the nation that proved irresistible.