FDR's First Fireside Chat: Public Confidence and the Banking Crisis

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“I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States.”

Thus began not only the first of Franklin Roosevelt’s celebrated radio addresses, collectively called Fireside Chats, but also the birth of the media era of the rhetorical presidency.

Humorist Will Rogers later said that the president took “such a dry subject as banking and made everyone understand it, even the bankers.” Roosevelt also took a giant step toward restoring confidence in the nation’s banks and, eventually, in its economy. Amos Kiewe tells the story of the First Fireside Chat, the context in which it was constructed, the events leading to the radio address, and the impact it had on the American people and the nation’s economy.

Roosevelt told America, “The success of our whole national program depends, of course, on the cooperation of the public—on its intelligent support and its use of a reliable system.” Kiewe succinctly demonstrates how the rhetoric of the soon-to-be-famous First Fireside Chat laid the groundwork for that support and the recovery of American capitalism.

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Editorial Reviews

The Historian

". . . well-researched and crisply written book. . . This engaging book reminds readers of how vital the ability to communicate is to successful political leadership."—The Historian
Thomas W. Benson

“The author’s original archival research allows him to reconstruct the situation facing the incoming Roosevelt administration in the middle of a banking crisis and the crafting and reception of the speech at a level of detail that will be of interest to both scholars and more general readers. His rhetorical criticism wisely sticks to the main issues—Roosevelt’s stylistic simplicity and lucidity, and the wisdom with which Roosevelt adapts his explanations and arguments to the situation as it was perceived by his fellow citizens. The historical reconstruction is detailed enough to satisfy the historian and presidential scholar and is fashioned into a very good yarn that at the same time deftly threads its way through the minefields of partisan memory…There have been other accounts by rhetorical scholars of FDR’s fireside chats. Kiewe’s account of the first fireside chat is a distinctive contribution to the literature and will certainly be the authoritative account of the history of this important speech.”--Thomas W. Benson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585446070
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Library of Presidential Rhetoric Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 166
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.61 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

AMOS KIEWE is professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. He is coauthor of a previous publication by Texas A&M University Press, FDR’s Body Politics: The Rhetoric of Disability (2003), as well as three other books and a number of articles and book chapters on presidential rhetoric. His Ph.D. is from Ohio University.
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