Prof. Katherine Rye Jewell on FDR’s “Banking Crisis” Fireside Chat

Primary Source: March 12, 1933: Fireside Chat 1: On the Banking Crisis

You can view the transcript of President Roosevelt’s first fireside chat here courtesy of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia 

Guided Discussion Questions 

  • What words or phrases in this speech best reflect the connection Franklin Roosevelt hoped to make with the American people? How does reading the transcript compare with listening to the address? Does the listener get a different experience than print? What is the significance of the title: Fireside Chat? What images does this title create of the relationship between the president and the American people?
  • How does the timeline of actions being taken regarding the banking crisis work to reassure Americans? What fears do you think Roosevelt was trying to address in describing the emergency actions his administration was taking and the legislation being prepared?
  • Look at the timeline of subsequent Fireside Chats. Were these regular occurrences, or special occasions? What kinds of presidential or legislative actions merited a Fireside Chat between the president and the American people? How did these radio addresses support an expanded presidential role and visibility, as well as the unfolding of the New Deal and his leadership during World War II? Do you see these chats as more political in nature, designed to elicit electoral support for certain policies, or as cultural events, designed to unify the American people as a mass democracy?

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Katherine Rye Jewell is Associate Professor at Fitchburg State University. She is author of Dollars for Dixie: Business and the Transformation of Conservatism in the Twentieth Century and working on a book about the culture wars and college radio.