How presidential empathy can improve politics

tags: FDR, presidential history, Trump, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Jeremi Suri, professor of history and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, has just published a new book, "The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America's Highest Office."

During the Great Depression, Americans learned a lesson: A president alone could not “fix” a free-falling economy or repair a deeply divided nation overnight. Such problems were larger and more complex than any one man or party or ideology.

And so, the newly inaugurated Franklin D. Roosevelt made few promises and never predicted quick success. But he did make a difference during a time of despair, deprivation, confusion and shock. How? By offering frightened listeners empathy.

Through his fireside chats, Roosevelt spoke directly to down-and-out citizens, entering their rickety houses and cramped apartments through the reach of radio. He narrated and explained the confusion around them; he did not sugarcoat, condemn or oversimplify. Roosevelt connected with his audience through an open conversation about what ailed the country.

By making himself a vehicle for citizens’ fears, Roosevelt channeled those anxieties toward positive collective actions: depositing family savings back in banks, building schools, planting trees and many other “make work” public activities.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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