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Electronic Era Presidential Firsts

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It was just 8 days after he was inaugurated that President Franklin Roosevelt gave his first national radio address, speaking directly from the White House. The U.S. was at the lowest point of the Great Depression with between 25 and 33 percent of Americans unemployed. The country was worried and Roosevelt went on the radio to assure them he was prepared to lead the country back to prosperity.

Roosevelt also explained why he ordered the banks closed to stop a panic of withdrawals. He called it a “banking holiday” and said the banks would reopen the next day.

Roosevelt did 30 more radio broadcasts during his presidency. 90 percent of American homes had a radio and nearly every one of them were tuned in.

Over the years, Roosevelt built support for his New Deal policies and explained his position on a number of issues during World War Two. Roosevelt had a gift for communicating with people no matter what their education was. He used simple words and stories to explain complicated issues.

Journalist Robert Trout called them “fireside chats” because so many people said it was as if the president had come into their homes and spoken directly to them. Before then, Americans had depended on spokespeople and newspapers to hear from the president. FDR’s first “fireside chat” was delivered on this day in 1933.

FDR was also the first president to appear on TV during opening ceremonies of the World’s Fair in 1939.

Bill Clinton was the first to send an e-mail in 1993. He says during his entire 8-year term he sent only two e-mails; the first to troops overseas and the second one in 1998 to former astronaut and Senator John Glenn during his mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery.

President Obama was the first to use Twitter during a Twitter Town Hall at the White House in 2011.


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