Remembering Roosevelt's First 'Fireside Chat'

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Melissa Block remembers Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first "fireside chat" as president, which he delivered on March 12, 1933 — 75 years ago Wednesday. Roosevelt had been in office just eight days and had little time to waste, as the country needed reassuring.

(Soundbite of Roosevelt's First Fireside Chat)

President FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

So began Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first fireside chat as president delivered March 12th, 1933, 75 years ago today. President Roosevelt had been in office just eight days and had little time to waste. The country needed reassuring. America was in the midst of the Great Depression; the economy in tatters. Thousands of banks across the country had been forced to close by anxious customers trying to withdraw all their money.

FDR's answer was a national bank holiday, buying the federal government time to bolster many of the failing banks. Perhaps as important as what Roosevelt said was how he said it. At 10:00 p.m. Eastern from his desk in the White House study, he managed to calm Americans over the radio with conviction. His tone was comforting but firm.

(Soundbite of Roosevelt's First Fireside Chat)

Pres. ROOSEVELT: Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith. You must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work. It is your problem, my friends, your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.

BLOCK: Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivering his first fireside chat as president 75 years ago today.

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