Each pair of students will:
- read the Lehrer NewsHour transcript of one of a dozen actions prioritized by Obama in the first 100 days of his administration.
- search through Obama’s acceptance speech on August 28, 2008 at the Democratic convention, to determine whether he addressed that policy plan in his original platform speech.
- describe why that action attained priority.
- present their findings to the class.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in on March 4, 1933; in earlier times, presidential inaugurations took place much later than they do now, to allow time for people to gather in Washington using slower means of transportation. The country was in crisis, with an unemployment rate of 25%. Inauguration festivities were brief, and the lights in the White House stayed on all night, signaling the beginning of a flood of emergency acts that were undertaken during the months of March, April, and May. Everything FDR brought to Congress was enacted immediately.
A “bank holiday” closed all banks on March 5 for four days, until they re-opened under the Emergency Banking Act, and the gold standard was suspended. An Economy Act cut federal salaries and expenditures. The Agricultural Adjustment Act supported farm prices, while the Tennessee Valley Authority began a program of rural electrification. The National Industrial Recovery Act and the Public Works Administration culminated the First 100 Days. Prohibition was repealed.
Roosevelt had established the concept of a “New Deal” that would bring the country out of the Depression, although the process took years. On March 12, he had addressed the country in the first of his “Fireside Chats” on the radio, and on May 4 he delivered the second radio chat, summarizing the radical changes of his first three months in office.
Obama inherited a country in deep recession, and he also acted quickly to introduce emergency measures to prop up a country in crisis. There are inevitable comparisons between FDR’s and Obama’s First 100 Days.
- Print a copy of each of the 12 Lehrer NewsHour transcripts cited in the graphic organizer grid. (If you can book a computer lab, you can avoid this step.)
- Print one copy of Obama’s convention acceptance speech for each pair of students. (You will need to print one copy of the acceptance speech for each student, if you use the extension homework assignment.)
- Read the Background information to students.
- Pair students and assign each pair one of the 100 Days actions on the grid.
- One pair member will read the transcript, while the other reads the speech. Allow 30 minutes for the pairs to complete their tasks.
- Display the grid on a whiteboard. Students will fill it in as they present their findings.
For homework, students can list agenda items in the campaign acceptance speech that Obama hasn’t prioritized, and imagine why they haven’t yet risen to the top. (Example: There was a gasoline crisis in 2008, but now that the price of gas is down, the imperatives to replace fossil fuels remain but they aren’t as pressing.)