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This photo was taken moments before U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt began his historic «Fireside Chat» to the American people on March 12, 1933. President Biden is reviving the practice, used by many modern presidents but ditched by Trump, of directly addressing the public through a weekly address.
The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia via
«It made me feel as though you were really one of us,» one listener wrote to the White House, according to the White House Historical Association.
The radio chat became so associated with Roosevelt that aides to his successor, Harry S. Truman, urged him to stay away from the airwaves to avoid comparisons to Roosevelt’s «unusually fine radio voice that kept us through the years.»
Not all efforts to ditch the pomp of the executive office and talk directly to the public were met with as much success. President Jimmy Carter tried to break the format, turning the one-sided conversation into a call-in show hosted by iconic CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite.
«Not even Franklin D. Roosevelt, the last President who mastered radio as a means of explaining his policies, could claim that his ‘fireside chats’ were part of ‘a continuing effort to make himself available to the people of the country to answer their questions,’ as the Carter White House has done,» The Washington Post wrote ahead of the 1977 broadcast.
Politico notes that while Carter and Cronkite, who developed the idea, considered it a success, «Dial-a-President» never aired again. The New York Times quotes presidential historian Douglas Brinkley saying that for Carter, «it diminished him.» Carter did however attempt a similar feat two years later with in live call-in show with NPR’s Susan Stamberg in 1979.
It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan assumed the White House that a regular radio address to the public returned. Unlike Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, which could take months between broadcasts, the actor-turned-politician made it a weekly practice to address voters on the radio.
The tradition was not dutifully maintained by his immediate successor George H.W. Bush, but both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush embraced the weekly address. As did Obama, who modified the practice by releasing a video on social media instead of taking his agenda to the airwaves. Trump released a weekly address through most of 2017, but later ended up ditching it in favor of his rallies.
- Fireside Chats
- Weekly address
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