A few days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn into office, he sat in the White House working on a radio speech about the country's banking crisis...It was the depths of the Depression, with a quarter of Americans out of work, homeless and destitute. The American economic system was in a state of shock...The New York Stock Exchange had suspended trading, and the Chicago Board of Trade bolted its doors for the first time since its founding in 1848. This was the bottom. ILet's return to 2008. Here's another link to some brief comments on Salon.com from Paul Levinson, a professor of popular culture and media studies at Fordham University...and an excerpt:
Roosevelt's inaugural address at the Capitol had begun to restore hope...Then FDR used a new medium in a new way to change millions...FDR brought natural talent to the role. His speaking voice was a beautiful, relaxed tenor, not the contrived basso profundo of pompous politicians.
Roosevelt owed much to technological good fortune. In 1921, the number of radios in the United States was in the thousands. By 1928, there were 9 million, and by 1932, 18 million, with about half the households owning at least one radio.
Gerald Ford, about 20 at the time, remembered FDR's Fireside Chats as "big events -- we would all stop and listen." Ronald Reagan's biographer, Lou Cannon, has written that Reagan's "metaphors [were] the offspring of FDR's." And Bill Clinton recalled hearing his grandfather talk about how he sat in rapt attention, "then went to work the next day feeling a little different about the country."
I think what we have been seeing on TV is very similar to what took place on radio during the Depression, in that both are about reassurance...Just as hearing Roosevelt's words reassured Americans that things were going to get better...What we have been seeing the past weeks reassures us that America has not been hopelessly diminished.While I never thought that America was "hopelessly diminished" and it is far too early to compare an Obama presidency to FDR, it is clear that Obama will continue to use social media in a way that capitalizes on its best elements: giving each of us and all of us the ability to connect and collaborate beyond time and geography to discover solutions for the challenges that can only be addressed through a profound change in approach and action.