Radio: Milestones and Influencers


Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) became President of the United States on March 4, 1933. The United States was in the midst of the Great Depression when he took office and bank failures were epidemic. On March 6th, FDR closed the entire American banking system. On March 9th Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act which enabled the creation of federal deposit insurance. With the banks set to reopen on March 13th, FDR took to the radio waves on Sunday evening, March 12th, in the first of his Presidential Fireside Chats, to reassure the American public that the money they deposited in banks would be secure. FDR used his Fireside Chats to speak directly to the people, bypassing main stream newspapers who were solidly against him.

The Hindenburg Disaster occurred in 1937. The Hidenburg as a German Zeppelin that carried passengers between Europe and the United States. Commercial transatlantic airplane flights would not begin for another two years. The Hindenburg Disaster sounded the death knoll for the use of rigid airships for commercial travel.

The War of the Worlds, an adaptation of H.G. Well’s novel by the same name and directed by Orson Welles was broadcast as a Halloween special on October 30, 1938. The broadcast became famous for causing panic among the listening audience, many of whom thought the Martians had invaded Earth.

Winston Churchill used his oratory skills while Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War II. His radio broadcasts during the war served to rally the English public to keep a stiff upper lift despite the ongoing threat of invasion by Germany. We Shall Fight on the Beaches is one of his most remembered wartime speeches.

Martin Luther King, civil rights leader, gave his most well-known speech on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to over 250,000 civil rights supporters who had gathered there in person. Radio brought the speech to many others through the United States. It was when Martin deviated from his prepared speech and started to riff in response to Mahalia Jackson imploring him to “Tell them about the dream, Martin” that the speech, now known as the “I Have a Dream” speech came alive. Sadly, MLK would be assassinated less than five years later.



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