“My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.” So began the first of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Fireside Chats, which came on the heels of his decision, two days after his inauguration, to close all American banks. During this address, Roosevelt used the intimacy of radio to share his hopes and plans directly with the people. He concluded by encouraging Americans to “tell me your troubles.” Roosevelt’s invitation was unprecedented, and the enormous public response it elicited signaled the advent of a new relationship between Americans and their president. In this indispensable book, Lawrence W. Levine and Cornelia R. Levine illuminate the period from 1933 to 1938 by setting each of the Fireside Chats in context and reprinting a moving selection of the letters that poured into Washington from an extraordinary variety of ordinary Americans. In his foreword, Michael Kazin examines the achievements and limits of the New Deal and the reasons that FDR remains, for many Americans, the exemplar of a good president. He also highlights the similarities of the 1930s to our era, with its deep recession and a new progressive administration in the White House.
Lawrence W. Levine is the author of Black Culture and Black Consciousness, Highbrow/Lowbrow, and The Opening of the American Mind. He was Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley, and died in 2006. Cornelia R. Levine is an independent scholar. Michael Kazin is Professor of History at Georgetown University and coeditor of Dissent. He is the author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan; The Populist Persuasion: An American History and other books.