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President Roosevelt Fireside Chat – Recovery, Banks and Government – September 30, 1934
News for this day had much to do with the continuing efforts at recovery, stability and getting America back to work – trying to undo the tangle of economic collapse and rescue distressed industry, clean up a corrupt banking system and put forth a pattern of government assistance in aiding recovery.
1934, not 2019 – although . . . .
When President Roosevelt took office in 1933, America was in the grips of the greatest economic Depression to hit the 20th Century. The banking system failed, savings were wiped out and unemployment along with poverty were rampant.
The road to recovery was a long and tortuous one – and not all programs proposed by FDR were met with enthusiasm. In fact, it was in 1934 a threatened coup was in the works to overthrow FDR and plunge the country into chaos.
Luckily, it didn’t happen and the result was a slow and steady recovery, not without dips and perils, but one which had a lasting effect. And one which has been chipped away almost consistently by the opposition since the 1930s.
But in 1934, FDR began a series of Radio talks, Fireside Chats as they came to be know, to give the American people some progress report on what was happening in Washington. It was the first time such a method of communication was used to reach a mass audience by a President. And that effort alone at transparency gave an enormous popularity boost for FDR. Of course, the message was also well received:
Pres. Roosevelt: “Nearly all Americans are sensible and calm people. We do not get greatly excited nor is our peace of mind disturbed, whether we be business men or workers or farmers, by awesome pronouncements concerning the unconstitutionality of some of our measures of recovery and relief and reform. We are not frightened by reactionary lawyers or political editors. All of these cries have been heard before. More than twenty-one years ago, when Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were attempting to correct abuses in our national life, the great Chief Justice White said:
“There is great danger it seems to me to arise from the constant habit which prevails where anything is opposed or objected to, of referring without rhyme or reason to the Constitution as a means of preventing its accomplishment, thus creating the general impression that the Constitution is but a barrier to progress instead’ of being the broad highway through which alone true progress may be enjoyed.”
In our efforts for recovery we have avoided, on the one hand, the theory that business should and must be taken over into an all-embracing Government. We have avoided, on the other hand, the equally untenable theory that it is an interference with liberty to offer reasonable help when private enterprise is in need of help. The course we have followed fits the American practice of Government, a practice of taking action step by step, of regulating only to meet concrete needs, a practice of courageous recognition of change. I believe with Abraham Lincoln, that “The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all or cannot do so well for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.”
Funny how things tend go around and repeat themselves. Even today.”
And on this September 30th in 1934 we were looking to FDR for answers.