This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first "fireside chat," broadcast on March 12, 1933 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to a nation that had become mired in a deep economic depression. In his first radio "chat" FDR chose to talk about the bank crisis. He began, "I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking –." He went on to explain the bank holiday that had just been put into effect, but more broadly, to encourage a renewed confidence in the nation's banking system based on the measures the federal government was taking to shore it up.
Part of Roosevelt's message in this first chat sounds chillingly current:
We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was of course not true in the vast majority of our banks but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity and to put them into a frame of mind where they did not differentiate, but seemed to assume that the acts of a comparative few had tainted them all.
But FDR went on to conclude with this thought:
[T]here is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear.
Bold and inspirational words, words that made a difference, from a man who had just been elected our national leader a few months earlier.
Chat, of course, has taken on additional meanings in this age of computer mediated communication, including instantly available online help between a client and an agency or organization when the client is performing complex tasks over a network. Libraries too have adopted reference chat as another way to offer help when needed or desired to their students or patrons, and our library is among them. It's not the main way we interact, nor even one of the main. Yet it's there for you, on our home page, there if you are not sure which resource to choose or which step to take next.
"Instant message chat" at our library – perhaps not as bold or inspirational as FDR's fireside chats, but one possible means, when you're away from the library, to help you get where you need to go.
Election Day, 2008