He has a legislature of the opposite party that didn't want to pass legislation he favored. The newspapers weren't friendly either. So what did he do - he went directly to the people using a new medium - radio. FDR, as governor of NY, used radio to broadcast his message directly to the citizens of New York.
FDR ran for president on a promise to restore American's confidence and end the Great Depression. In his inaugural speech he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," and set out to calm American's economic fears and gain support for his policies to end the Great Depression.
Eight days after his inauguration, he did his first, of some 30, radio broadcasts to America, broadcasts which would later be called Fireside Chats. He wasn't the first president to a radio broadcast, that was our W.G Harding, but he was the first to use it to drive public opinion.
The US was at the lowest point of the Great Depression, with 25 - 33% unemployment. he started his broadcast with “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking;” and went on to explain why he declared a banking holiday and thanked Americans for their “fortitude and good temper” and that banks would open the next day.
FDR was a very skilled orator who used simple words to be sure all Americans could understand him, and used folksy stories to help explain complex subjects. He used the to build support for the New Deal and encourage Americans during WWII. FDR went on to win 3 more elections and received tons of mail from Americans thanking him for entering their living room and reassuring them.
More on Fireside Chats:
* YIH - Yesterday in History