Date of Award



Julie Kim

Second Advisor

Oneka LaBennett


This thesis project focuses on the ways in which American presidents use media to engage the public in political discourse and reassure the masses in times of economic crisis. In a comparative analysis of the different media and political rhetoric employed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the 1933 banking crisis and Barack Obama during the 2009 recession, I explore why Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” proved more successful than Obama’s imitations on YouTube and other media platforms in 2009. By engaging in media theory on how political discourse is shaped by the medium within which it is presented, as well as historical scholarship on the rhetoric of Roosevelt and Obama during their respective financial crises, I establish the reasons for Barack Obama’s apparent failure to live up to the FDR model of “Comforter-in-Chief” in the information age. I propose that Obama’s inability to connect with the American public to the extent that FDR did in the 1930s is the result of both his own rhetorical inadequacies when sympathizing with the common man and the mass media phenomena that has created increasingly impersonalized communication and news absorption.