The Power of Connection
Today I went to visit FDR's home in Hyde Park. I've lived in the Hudson Valley for years, and had never been to see it – so today I decided to rectify the situation!
I really enjoyed it – I love all things historical, and it was fascinating finding out about FDR's life and family.
However, there was a single room that affected me mostly deeply. On March 12, 1933, FDR delivered the first of his Fireside chats. It was the first time a President had addressed the nation in such an intimate and informal way, and it had a profound impact. The simple, straightforward address focused on explaining the bank crisis in a way that people would understand, and that would encourage them to trust the banking system.
Sixty million people sat by their radios and listened to their president explain both the government's approach to addressing the crisis and the rationale for it. He spoke to them as though he were sitting with them in their living rooms.
In the room in the Presidential Library dedicated to this historic event, they've papered the walls with hundreds of the many thousands of letters sent to FDR within a few days after the address. I spent some time walking around this room, reading these letters. They were typed and handwritten; sophisticated and simple; written on letterhead from captains of industry and on lined paper from schoolchildren. As I read, I found myself having to brush away tears.
Every single one carried essentially the same message: Thank you for speaking to me, Mr. President. Thank you for telling me the truth, and providing hope in this difficult situation. Thank you for leading us.
When the banks began reopening the next day, very few people withdrew their money.