12
Mar
09

On This Day, March 12: Fireside Chats

 

March 12, 1933

FDR gives first fireside chat

On this day in 1933, eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first national radio address or “fireside chat,” broadcast directly from the White House.

Roosevelt began that first address simply: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.” He went on to explain his recent decision to close the nation’s banks in order to stop a surge in mass withdrawals by panicked investors worried about possible bank failures. The banks would be reopening the next day, Roosevelt said, and he thanked the public for their “fortitude and good temper” during the “banking holiday.”

At the time, the U.S. was at the lowest point of the Great Depression, with between 25 and 33 percent of the work force unemployed. The nation was worried, and Roosevelt’s address was designed to ease fears and to inspire confidence in his leadership.
Roosevelt went on to deliver 30 more of these broadcasts between March 1933 and June 1944. They reached an astonishing number of American households, 90 percent of which owned a radio at the time.

Journalist Robert Trout coined the phrase “fireside chat” to describe Roosevelt’s radio addresses, invoking an image of the president sitting by a fire in a living room, speaking earnestly to the American people about his hopes and dreams for the nation. In fact, Roosevelt took great care to make sure each address was accessible and understandable to ordinary Americans, regardless of their level of education. He used simple vocabulary and relied on folksy anecdotes or analogies to explain the often complex issues facing the country.

Over the course of his historic 12-year presidency, Roosevelt used the chats to build popular support for his groundbreaking New Deal policies, in the face of stiff opposition from big business and other groups. After World War II began, he used them to explain his administration’s wartime policies to the American people. The success of Roosevelt’s chats was evident not only in his three re-elections, but also in the millions of letters that flooded the White House. Farmers, business owners, men, women, rich, poor–most of them expressed the feeling that the president had entered their home and spoken directly to them. In an era when presidents had previously communicated with their citizens almost exclusively through spokespeople and journalists, it was an unprecedented step.

“FDR gives first fireside chat.” 2009. The History Channel website. 12 Mar 2009, 10:41 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4829.

On This Day

1664 – New Jersey became a British colony. King Charles II granted land in the New World to his brother James (The Duke of York).

1755 – In North Arlington, NJ, the steam engine was used for the first time.

1884 – The State of Mississippi authorized the first state-supported college for women. It was called the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College.

1923 – Dr. Lee DeForest demonstrated phonofilm. It was his technique for putting sound on motion picture film.

1930 – Ghandi began his 200-mile march to the sea that symbolized his defiance of British rule over India.

1933 – President Paul von Hindenburg dropped the flag of the German Republic and ordered that the swastika and empire banner be flown side by side.

1938 – The “Anschluss” took place as German troops entered Austria.

1940 – Finland surrendered to Russia ending the Russo-Finnish War.

1947 – U.S. President Truman established the “Truman Doctrine” to help Greece and Turkey resist Communism.

1959 – The U.S. House joined the U.S. Senate in approving the statehood of Hawaii.

1993 – Janet Reno was sworn in as the first female U.S. attorney general.

1994 – A photo by Marmaduke Wetherell of the Loch Ness monster was confirmed to be a hoax. The photo was taken of a toy submarine with a head and neck attached.

2003 – In Utah, Elizabeth Smart was reunited with her family nine months after she was abducted from her home. She had been taken on June 5, 2002, by a drifter that had previously worked at the Smart home.

March 12, 1917

Russian army lends support to rebels in February Revolution

After being called out to quell workers’ demonstrations on the streets of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), regiment after regiment of soldiers in the city’s army garrison defect to join the rebels on March 12, forcing the resignation of the imperial government and heralding the triumph of the February Revolution in Russia.

The most immediate cause of discontent among the Russian people was the country’s disastrous participation in the First World War. Despite enjoying success against Austria-Hungary in the first years of the war, the czar’s armies had suffered repeated crushing defeats at the hands of the German army on the Eastern Front. When combined with Russia’s backward economy, its repressive government and its huge population of hungry and frustrated peasants, defeat on the battlefield pushed the country into full-scale revolution in 1917.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Petrograd, the Russian capital, on March 8, 1917, clashing with police but refusing to leave the streets. By March 10, all of Petrograd’s workers were on strike; the next day, the troops of the Petrograd army garrison were called out to quell the uprising.

In some initial encounters, the regiments opened fire, killing some workers; the total number killed reached about 1,500. Though the demonstrators fled after being fired upon, they refused to abandon the streets altogether and returned to confront the soldiers again. Soon, many troops began to waver when given the order to fire on the demonstrators, even allowing some to pass through their lines. On March 12, regiment after regiment defected to join the demonstrators. Within 24 hours, the entire Petrograd garrison—some 150,000 men—had joined the February Revolution, ensuring its triumph.

Three days later, Czar Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Michael, who refused the crown, ending the czarist regime and leaving Russia in the hands of a new provisional government, led by Russia’s minister of war, Alexander Kerensky, and tolerated by the Petrograd Soviet, the worker’s council formed by the February rebels. Kerensky hoped to salvage the Russian war effort while ending the food shortage and many other domestic crises. It would prove a daunting task: in April, Vladimir Lenin, founder of the radical socialist group known as the Bolsheviks, returned to Russia from exile to lead the October (or Bolshevik) Revolution and take over power of the country.

“Russian army lends support to rebels in February Revolution.” 2009. The History Channel website. 12 Mar 2009, 10:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=339.

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