OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Discovering a Purpose: The Listening Democracy of 1930-40s America


Celeste Nunez


Throughout the 1930s through the mid-1940s, the people of America witnessed two of the most traumatic events in American history, the Great Depression and World War II. During these two decades, the people turned to radio as their form of “escape” allowing them to forget about the events happening around them. Radio culture in America began to explode with nearly twenty-eight million households owning a radio by the end of 1939. Franklin Delano Roosevelt utilized this technology to reach out to the American people and discuss the events occurring not only around the world but also in their backyards. FDR served as President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. He created a relationship with the citizens of America that no other President could accomplish before all through the medium of radio. But how? My research analyzes FDR’s Fireside Chats through the perception of the people by analyzing the letters that they sent to him immediately after each of his broadcasts. I look at not only the positive letters but also the negative in order to display how the Fireside Chats created a feeling of purpose and the idea of an active democracy for both political parties. After careful examination of the letters, I conclude that the diction of FDR’s broadcasts created a space that ‘welcomed’ the listener to participate in the conversation and that the structure and diction of the letters responded to him as if they were a part of the American political network.

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