When Franklin D. Roosevelt gave one of his fireside chats on the radio, the story goes, “you could walk along a line of parked cars in Chicago and keep hearing his voice because everybody was listening.
That is real power, and we don’t have anything like it today.
When the President gives a speech today, the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells Big Think, “you might hear the pundits tearing it down before he even finishes the speech.” Moreover, our attention span is so diminished,” Goodwin says, “that I don’t know if we can have a sustained conversation about an issue the way they could about monopolies or corruption at the turn of the twentieth century.”
The turn of the century was the time of FDR’s fifth cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, and that era is the subject of Goodwin’s new book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.
Goodwin describes the symbiotic relationship between the Roosevelt and the press, and how that relationship helped usher in an era of reform that was unprecedented in American history. Goodwin tells Big Think that Roosevelt’s ‘Bully pulpit” – the power of his office combined with the power of the press – provided an unparalleled platform to educate the country and advocate change.
In the video below, Goodwin describes how the bully pulpit was such a powerful tool to battle corruption at the turn of the twentieth century. She also explores how it still can be used as a tool of persuasion today, even in polarized Washington.
Watch the video here:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock