Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We Are Being Spoken To and We Don't Even Know It

          On March 12, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the first of 31 Fireside Chats. For the first time, America was able to sit down and listen as their president used the most progressive means of technology for their time to reassure them and to educate them about what was going on in the White House and across the nation. Over the radio, the president was able to reach over 90% of Americans. He was sure to make the information easy to understand, but answered complicated and staggering questions like the state of the Depression and the Banking Crisis. For the first time, Americans were unified in their media usage and in the message they were receiving.
          These Fireside Chats were amazing to the people. They loved the idea that they could be near the President even though he was so far away. They appreciated the effort taken to reach out and help them to understand. People were glued to their radio sets whenever the President would host a Chat. Nobody missed the broadcasts.
           Since president Roosevelt, each and every president has continued this tradition of addressing the people. Ronald Reagan introduced the Weekly Radio Address which was held every Saturday night until George W. Bush who replaced these radio talks with weekly podcasts. Our current President, Barak Obama, has taken these chats even further, making them weekly videos available one the White House website. On January 30, 2012, Barak Obama participated in a Google Hangout. This hangout was attended by Mr. Obama, the mediator Steve Grove, a Google employee, and five average citizens who had posted questions to the president and were selected to talk about the answers to those questions.
           We live in a country where our presiding body feels the need to communicate with us. Every week we get videos, articles, blog posts, all information from our government that we are lucky enough to receive. Did you even know these things existed? I didn't. I was under the false impression that the only opportunity we have to hear from our president was special occasions, press releases and the State of the Union. I had no idea that the White House had a website, or that Congress had a blog. Clearly though, these things are logical reactions to society now. The President should be talking to the people weekly. Congress should have a blog. Why, then, didn't I, an educated, middle class American, have any idea about the resources my government was offering me?
          We have talked a lot about education in the past week in our class, and I think that this right here is a huge flaw in our educational system. We are taught through social experiences and through the information we are given that the President and our leaders are separate, that they are uninvolved in our lives. It is now socially acceptable to disregard the President as someone not worth listening to. We are uninterested in what he has to say because we feel so disconnected from him and from our legislative bodies. I think that our government classes and political science classes should help us know how to care. Yes, I learned roughly how the various bodies work, but I still didn't know why it mattered. It is amazing to me to look back at these people in the 30s who had so much faith in the President. They wanted to listen, they wanted to believe that their leaders could make everything okay. They were willing to give the President and the rest of government the support needed to make things happen.
          In our various classes, we need to be studying how people actively participate in government. We need to be writing letters to the president. We need to be hearing from local and state elected officials. We need to watch the weekly Presidential addresses. We need to be taught how to have a voice in government, not just that we the people have the power. How can we exercise that power if we don't know how? We have the opportunity now to be more vocal than ever. We can create response videos, blog posts, and e-mails that actually get read. We have so much more of an opportunity to participate than people did in the 30s, but care so much less to do so. I know that at the very least, I will be watching the presidential addresses from now on. Will you?

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