FDR's Fireside Chats
Between 1933 and 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation using evening radio about various topics. These conversations were known as “fireside chats” because they were comforting and fairly casual, so it almost felt like FDR was sitting by the fireside and chatting with the American people one-on-one.
FDR’s first fireside chat was on March 12, 1933, about a week after he was inaugurated, and throughout the first few years of his administration, he assured the American people that he was putting in place proper measures to combat the Great Depression. FDR spoke about his First New Deal and its various programs designed to help provide employment and economic relief, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. On April 28, 1935, FDR announced new policies that would be part of the Second New Deal, such as the Social Security Act and more work relief programs.
FDR explained that Social Security would help the elderly, who were struggling more during the Great Depression, and also provide unemployment insurance to help cushion the shock of unemployment.
As much of the administration’s focus started to move from the Great Depression to the start of World War II, so did the focus of the fireside chats. On September 3, 1939, when World War II was just beginning to unfold, FDR assured the American people that the US would try to remain neutral and stay out of the world to the best of its ability. FDR also assured everyone that information would not be withheld and that the American people were “the best informed people in all the world.”
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, FDR addressed the nation in a fireside chat that night, informing everyone that America was officially joining World War II to fight for peace and liberty. On October 12, 1942, FDR updated the American people about the war and also urged all people, including women and even high school students, to join the workforce to ramp up production for war materials.
FDR went on to broadcast a total of 30 fireside chats. The fireside chats made the American people feel like the president was talking directly to them. Because the tone was casual and conversational, though the topics were serious, many people felt comforted by FDR’s chats and informed about what exactly the federal government was planning.