On March 12, 1933 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) used his first fireside chat to speak directly to the American people via radio, forever changing how presidents communicate
Roosevelt delivered his first fireside chat, just eight days after his inauguration. He spoke from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House and addressed the bank failings and closures that were crippling the economy and shaking confidence.
FDR told the American people he wanted to explain “for the benefit of the average citizen”[i] what was going on with the banking system. He then offered an overview of how bank deposits work and what happens when there is “a general rush by a large portion of our population to turn bank deposits into currency.”[ii]
In an effort to instill confidence in the banking system, Roosevelt stressed that more important than currency is the “confidence of the people”[iii] in the banking system and more broadly in the government. When banks reopened the day after the president’s fireside chat, most customers had regained confidence and there were long lines to return withdrawn cash to the banks. On the first day of stock trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 15.34%, the largest single-day percentage gain in history. FDR’s fireside chats would continue to be an important tool for him to share his ideas and build support for his policies throughout his presidency.
Today, the fireside chats are part of the National Recording Registry, an archive of culturally, historically, or aesthetically important sound recordings. You can listen to the original audio of his March 12, 1933 chat on the registry. Every US president since FDR has followed his model and regularly addressed the American people on radio, TV or the internet.