Roosevelt played an active role in defining the role of government by taking his domestic programs directly to the American people. With straightforward, plain language, the president sought to win public support for the New Deal and regain the nation's confidence in government. FDR connected with America through a series of radio addresses that would come to be known as "fireside chats." After taking office on March 4, Roosevelt delivered his first address the following Sunday, in order to explain the administration's response to the bank crisis and reassure citizens that there deposits were safe. Referring to the ease and expertise with which Roosevelt spoke, comedian Will Rogers said that the president could take a complicated subject like banking and make everybody understand it, even the bankers. Included here is a collection of speeches that FDR gave during the years of the New Deal. While these examples by no means cover all public addresses, they give an idea of the way that Roosevelt used language to win public confidence.




Even as its power to decide issues had waned in recent years, the media remained influential and retained its ability to direct public opinion. While most newspapers leaned Republican, Roosevelt's relations with the press at the beginning of his term are legendary. He presided over a press room with ease and developed good relations with the media. In the months directly following his inauguration, the president enjoyed a honeymoon period with a press that had become accustomed to a standoffish and motionless Hoover Administration, and the New Deal, overall, received good reviews. As the domestic agenda progressed, however, there developed a resistance to Roosevelt's style as well as some of his policies. While there seemed to be support for his handling of the banking situation, his solutions to farming and industrial recovery received a more tepid response. The lowest point came following the president's proposal to reorganize the judiciary--endorsement of FDR's plan was nowhere to be found. In an effort to sample the ideological and geographical spectrum, the editorials included here are from three sources: the more conservativeChicago Tribune, the liberal weeklyThe Nation, and the liberal-leaningNew York Times. Additionally, the dailies each carried a circulation of close to a million, making them two of the most read newspapers in the country. The editorials here focus primarily on the banking crisis, the hundred days, the NIRA and judicial reorganization.




Political cartooning is a valuable, and often overlooked, medium of influence. While serving almost the same function as editorial writing, a cartoonist must make a case in one frame, using a single image as its primary vehicle of persuasion. And while it may reach a larger section of the public (because of its presumed accessibility in addition to its often-front page location) it is sometimes a more difficult medium to interpret. Roosevelt, because of both his unprecedented four terms and the activity with which he assumed the office, was perhaps the most cartooned president in our history. Similar to the response of newspaper editorial writers and the majority of Americans, the cartoons published after his election, during the transfer of power and at the beginning of the New Deal showered the president with praise and anticipated a shift in the national disposition. Cartoons portray the president as the engineer of the train of public confidence and remark on the number of his programs as well as the speed with which they were enacted. But as the AAA and NRA took shape, editorial cartoonists, as much as, if not more than other critics were concerned that government seemed to be shifting its ideology towards socialism. Again, Roosevelt faced widespread disapproval at his court-packing plan and was often portrayed in cartoons as a power-hungry dictator. The cartoons in this collection have not been taken solely from the newspapers with the largest circulation, but represent an ideological and geographic cross-section of what was appearing in newspapers during the years of the New Deal.