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Newest Radio Hall-of-Famer Breaks a Mold


Newscasters, disc jockeys, musicians whose songs are played -- even actors in commercials -- reach thousands or millions of people all at once on the radio. But something personal happens each time they reach a single listener in a place called the "Theater of the Mind."

This one-on-one connection between broadcaster and listener comes to mind as the Museum of Broadcast Communications, based in Chicago, makes plans for an extraordinary induction into its . The honoree was never in the broadcasting business. But he was one of America's most compelling radio communicators.

He is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only person elected U.S. president FOUR times. Americans heard Roosevelt's cultured, confident voice for the first time in 1932 as he accepted the Democratic nomination for president and unveiled what he called his "New Deal" social plan to lift the nation out of a deep economic depression. Then, in his first inaugural address, he told the demoralized nation that "the only thing we have to fear . . . is fear itself."

And in thirty heart-to-heart talks known as "fireside chats" throughout the Depression and Second World War, he comforted families from coast to coast as they gathered around their big, boxy radios.

In the very first one, he got right to the point: "I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking."

Next July 2, on the anniversary of FDR's "New Deal" speech, the historic Auditorium Theatre in Chicago will be transformed into a stage set, modeled after the Democratic Convention floor seventy-five years earlier. There, the name Franklin Delano Roosevelt will take its place among legendary performers in the Theater of the Mind.

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