FDR broadcasts first 'fireside chat' during the Great Depression On this day in 1933, eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first national radio address—or “fireside chat”—broadcast directly from the White House. Roosevelt began that first address simply: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.” He went on to explain his recent decision to close the nation’s banks in order to stop a surge in mass withdrawals by panicked investors worried about possible bank failures. The banks would be reopening the next day, Roosevelt said, and he thanked the public for their “fortitude and good temper” during the “banking holiday.” At the time, the U.S. was at the lowest point of the Great Depression, with between 25 and 33 percent of the workforce unemployed. The nation was worried, and Roosevelt’s address was designed to ease fears and to inspire confidence in his leadership. Roosevelt went on to deliver 30 more of these broadcasts between March 1933 and June 1944. They reached an astonishing number of American households, 90 percent of which owned a radio at the time. Journalist Robert Trout coined the phrase “fireside chat” to describe Roosevelt’s radio addresses, invoking an image of the president sitting by a fire in a living room, speaking earnestly to the American people about his hopes and dreams for the nation. In fact, Roosevelt took great care to make sure each address was accessible and understandable to ordinary Americans, regardless of their level of education. He used simple vocabulary and relied on folksy anecdotes or analogies to explain the often complex issues facing the country. Over the course of his historic 12-year presidency, Roosevelt used the chats to build popular support for his groundbreaking New Deal policies, in the face of stiff opposition from big business and other groups. After World War II began, he used them to explain his administration’s wartime policies to the American people. The success of Roosevelt’s chats was evident not only in his three re-elections, but also in the millions of letters that flooded the White House. Farmers, business owners, men, women, rich, poor—most of them expressed the feeling that the president had entered their home and spoken directly to them. In an era when presidents had previously communicated with their citizens almost exclusively through spokespeople and journalists, it was an unprecedented step. 1947 President Truman announces the Truman Doctrine In a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War. In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. On March 12, 1947, Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress to make his case. The world, he declared, faced a choice in the years to come. Nations could adopt a way of life “based upon the will of the majority” and governments that provided “guarantees of individual liberty” or they could face a way of life “based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority.” This latter regime, he indicated, relied upon “terror and oppression.” “The foreign policy and the national security of this country,” he claimed, were involved in the situations confronting Greece and Turkey. Greece, he argued, was “threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists.” It was incumbent upon the United States to support Greece so that it could “become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.” The “freedom-loving” people of Turkey also needed U.S. aid, which was “necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity.” The president declared that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman requested $400 million in assistance for the two nations. Congress approved his request two months later. The Truman Doctrine was a de facto declaration of the Cold War. Truman’s address outlined the broad parameters of U.S. Cold War foreign policy: the Soviet Union was the center of all communist activity and movements throughout the world; communism could attack through outside invasion or internal subversion; and the United States needed to provide military and economic assistance to protect nations from communist aggression. Not everyone embraced Truman’s logic. Some realized that the insurgency in Greece was supported not by the Soviet Union, but by Yugoslavia’s Tito, who broke with the Soviet communists within a year. Additionally, the Soviets were not demanding control of the Dardanelles, but only assurances that this strategic waterway would not be used by Russia’s enemies-as the Nazis had used it during World War II. And whether U.S. assistance would result in democracy in Greece or Turkey was unclear. Indeed, both nations established repressive right-wing regimes in the years following the Truman Doctrine. Yet, the Truman Doctrine successfully convinced many that the United States was locked in a life-or-death struggle with the Soviet Union, and it set the guidelines for over 40 years of U.S.-Soviet relations. 1888 The Blizzard of 1888 The most severe winter storm ever to hit the New York City region reaches blizzard proportions, costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage. Although the storm also struck New England, New York was the hardest hit, with the 36-hour blizzard dumping some 40 inches of snow on the city. For several weeks, the city was virtually isolated from the rest of the country by the massive snowdrifts. Messages north to Boston had to be relayed via England. Even “Leatherman,” a fixture of New York and Connecticuthistory who had walked a circuit of 365 miles every 34 days for three decades, was reportedly delayed four days by the Blizzard of 1888. Leatherman, who walked during the day and slept in caves at night, was known as such because his clothes were made out of large patches of thick leather.