From the Editor: Presidents and Technology
RTC Perspectives: What if the Presidents had used social media
During the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned to technology to unite the country. Using
the fairly new medium of broadcast radio, he was able to reach directly into the homes of Americans. These broadcasts were
notable especially for their informal and personal tone. These informal broadcasts were actually the precursors to weekly
Presidential radio broadcasts that still continue today. Radio was still cutting-edge technology when FDR began these broadcasts,
but just like the technologies of today - it was rapidly adopted by the public. When the first Presidential Fireside Chat was
broadcasted, more Americans had radios than telephones.i
FDR actually began his "Fireside Chats" while governor of New York, but it is the use of these informal and personal radio
broadcasts during the Great Depression and World War II that captured the popular imagination and became such a part of
FDR's legacy that they are even represented in the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. While it may seem strange to think that
Podcasting, Tweeting, G+ Hangouts or Pinterest Pinning could ever become part of a Presidential memorial, it's really no stranger
than a radio broadcast.
It has been true in the past and it is still true now that how the President chooses to use technology can actually help to make
technologies mainstream that have otherwise been in more niche use. Just think back to how novel candidate Howard Dean's
use of social media seemed just a few years ago. When the press picks up on a new way a Presidential candidate or President is
using technology, it has the power to push that technology into the mainstream. Think how commonplace "YouTube debates" or
chats with candidates seem now, or taking questions from Twitter. Don't be surprised if every campaign commercial begins to
have a hashtag present and you start seeing them on buttons and literature.
Since our first edition of Perspectives for 2012 was being published so close to President's Day, we decided to take a look at how
the past leaders of our nation may have utilized technology - and what technologies of today we think they would have used if
it had been available. With the 2012 Presidential elections moving into high gear, we're seeing campaigns use every form of
communication technology they can. Why not look back and take lessons from history?
We hope you enjoy our exploration and encourage you to join us in the conversation!
All the best,
Carlen Lea Lesser, VP/Director Digital Integration & Innovation
P.S. I also want to give a special thanks to RTC's Josh Scott for our amazing cover art. It's a "visual Perspective" on the theme for
the issue. We're so thrilled he is adding his considerable talents as an illustrator to Perspectives!