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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.