World War 2 for Kids
World War II
What were the Fireside Chats?
When Franklin D. Roosevelt
became president he wanted a way to communicate his ideas directly to the American people. He did this through a number of radio speeches called fireside chats. He would address issues and explain what was going on in the country. He used these speeches to encourage the American people during times of trouble.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fireside Chat
Where did the name come from?
From the name of these speeches you might at first think that President Roosevelt was sitting by a cozy fire telling stories, but he actually sat at his desk talking into a microphone. The name "fireside chats" came from a reporter named Harry Butcher. He first called the speeches fireside chats because 1) many Americans listened to the speeches in their living room near their fireplaces and 2) President Roosevelt talked in an informal manner as if he were chatting with a friend rather than giving a speech.
What were the chats about?
The chats were about the current issues of the day. When President Roosevelt first entered office the country was in an economic crisis called the Great Depression
. He discussed issues such as his New Deal Program, drought conditions, and unemployment. Later, during World War II, he talked about the war and what the people of America could do to help.
Were the chats popular?
Yes, the fireside chats were very popular. The radio was one of the main sources of news and information of the day. The family would often gather around the radio and listen to different radio shows. The fireside chats were one of the most listened to radio events of the time.
The First Fireside Chat
The first fireside chat was held on March 12, 1933. This was just a few days after President Roosevelt started his first term in office. He talked about a banking crisis that was going on at the time. He explained how banks work and what was going wrong. He also explained what the government was doing to fix the problem. He then asked the American people not to panic.
The Great Depression
Many of the early fireside chats had to do with the economy and the Great Depression. The president talked about unemployment, the New Deal, the drought in the Midwest, the U.S. currency, and more. He tried to explain it to people so they would understand what was going on throughout the country and what the government was doing to try and make things better.
World War II
When World War II began, the fireside chats turned to the subject of war. On December 9, 1941, the president told the American people that the country was joining the Allies and going to war against Germany and Japan. Later, he would outline the progress of the war. He asked families to listen to the chats with a world map in the room so they could locate where American troops were fighting. He asked the American people to work hard to build planes, weapons, tanks, and ships to help win the war.
Interesting Facts about the Fireside Chats
- Many of the talks began with the phrase "Good evening, friends."
- President Roosevelt gave a total of 30 fireside chats.
- Roosevelt compared World War II with the American Revolution.
- Around 90 percent of American households owned a radio during Roosevelt's presidency.
- "The Star-Spangled Banner" played at the end of each speech.
Take a ten question quiz
about this page.
Learn More about World War II:
World War 2 for Kids