Fireside Chats

Often, people enjoy conversation in a friendly, informal setting, perhaps relaxing on the front porch or near a fireplace. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States between 1933 and 1945, used informal radio chats to communicate his ideas directly to the American people. He did this through many radio speeches called Fireside Chats.

The chats included information about the issues taking place in the country, and he also used them to encourage the American people in times of trouble. The first chat took place on March 12, 1933, just several days following the start of his first term in office. During the time-period, they were one of the most listened to radio broadcasts of all time.

The name originated from a reporter named Harry Butcher, who first coined the term in a news story. He called them fireside chats for two reasons: Many people heard the speeches while listening to the radio near a fireplace, and the informal conversation and manner he used when speaking to the country. Of course, Roosevelt was not near a fireplace but spoke from his desk speaking into a microphone.

The chats were extremely popular because radio was the main source of news and information for people. Many families would gather around the radio as some people may gather around a television today.

Early fireside chats were related to the economy and the Great Depression. During the first one, Roosevelt discussed the banking crisis, how banks worked, and what was going wrong with them. He included how the government would help fix the problems with the banks, and finally, he asked the American people not to panic.

Other topics in future chats include more about the economy, unemployment, the New Deal, a drought in the Midwest, and much more. He spoke to the people in a calming, relaxed manner, helping the people to understand what the government was doing to help them through the different crisis caused by the Great Depression.

Later in Roosevelt's term, World War II began and the chats included information about the war. On December 9, the President informed the country the United States would be joining the war and the Allies in a fight against Germany and Japan. During later chats, he gave the listeners update on the progress of the war, even asking people to view world maps as he spoke to them. At the same time, he encouraged people to work hard to help the troops in Europe by building planes, weapons, and tanks to help win the war.

Roosevelt's fireside chats brought the country together in times of turmoil and during times of peace. He began every chat with the welcome phrase, 'Good evening, friends.' In all, Roosevelt gave about 30 fireside chats and since about 90% of households in America owned radios, the chats were heard by many Americans.

Finally, at the end of every chat the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, would be played.

A: Franklin Roosevelt
B: Harry Butcher
C: Neither A nor B
D: Both A and B

A: March 3, 1912
B: March 30, 1933
C: March 12, 1933
D: March 1, 1945

A: His first term in office
B: His second term in office
C: His third term in office
D: His final term in office

A: Internet
B: Radio
C: Television
D: All the above

A: About the end of World War I
B: About the beginning of World War II
C: About the U.S. sending troops to Europe for World War II
D: About the withdrawal of troops from World War I

A: He wanted listeners to become his friends
B: He felt people would tell their friends about the chats
C: All the Americans were friends of the President
D: He believed people would feel comforted by the informal greeting

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