Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bringing a Nation to War

On December 8th, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced one of the most difficult situations a leader of a nation could face, bringing the people into a war, and consoling them in the losses brought about by a completely unexpected and violent attack. The public looked to be both reassured at the loss of the Americans in the attack on Pearl Harbor and giving a call to arms by which the American people would fight a long war that would cost many lives. Roosevelt also spoke, primarily to Congress, but with the knowledge that the entire nation would be listening via the radio. His audience was thus broad, yet requiring the same things. Both audiences, the general public and Congress, required the reassurance and support of a leader, as well as a call to arms. In his “Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation”, President Roosevelt achieved both of these goals, through both the words he used as well as the method with which he said them.

The words and diction that President Roosevelt used were important in bringing the American people into the war. The opening of the speech, which states that the day of Pearl Harbor shall “live in infamy”, does much to show the American people the atrocity of the attack. It also shows that the attacks were very deliberate and planned. This works towards both goals, both consoling the people as well as urging them to see the Japanese attacks as atrocious and that Americans should react as such. The call to arms that Roosevelt is trying to bring about is also evident in the section where he says, “The Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States.” This is meant to rile up anger amongst Americans, as it also reassures them that America will remain strong. A list of grievances follows in the speech, which shows where attacks have fallen in the last twenty-four hours. This too is meant to rile up anger by further showing the complex planning and training that would be involved in such an operation. The last section of the speech is reassuring as well as being a powerful call to arms. The line "With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God" is both a reassurance in the strength of the American people as well as asking them to have confidence themselves and find victory.

The method with which the President used were also critical in bringing the American people into the war. He used a slow method of speaking at the beginning of the speech, and maintained that method of speaking throughout the rest of the speech. The speed at which he was speaking was reassuring and supportive of the people. When the time and purpose called for it, however, Roosevelt would raise his voice and speak with more force to prove a point. This was used during the list of grievances as well as the opening. This method of presentation was, perhaps most famously, used in the line "a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire." This does much to augment his purpose of bring the American people into the war. Also, his facial and body expressions (Figure 1) drive home his meaning to the members of congress.

Figure 1. "Franklin Roosevelt." 1941. Photograph. Web. 5 October 2010.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a difficult task on December 8th, 1941. He had to bring a people that was reluctant to fight into the largest war in history, as well as reassure them. His diction and method of delivery were both critical and successful in making that need a reality.

Work Cited

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. "Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation." Washington
D.C., United States. 8 December 1941. Web. 5 October 2010.