The Franklin D Roosevelt speech on 8th December 1941

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago.  During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.”

FDR responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour with a speech the following day, delivered in Washington DC.  President Roosevelt’s purpose was two-fold; to address the nation in a time of upheaval and to generate support from Congress for the declaration of war.

His language was succinct and his delivery perfunctory. This is a short speech at just over three minutes.  His manner is grave, matching the tone required of the occasion.

President Roosevelt’s opening remarks are delivered slowly.  He draws his audience down into their seats and has them listening intently;

“Mr Vice President, Mr Spearker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Yesterday December 7th 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and at the solicitation of Japan was still in conversation with its government and it Emperor looking towards the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

The controlled anger is palpable with the lengthy pause following this statement:

“But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”

And then an ethical appeal to defend against the premeditated (unjust) attack coupled with a patriotic plea which generates the assembly.  FDR is undoubtedly successful in garnering support for his response.

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

Even in this brief speech, we have two clear examples of alliteration, delivered with pneumatic resonance:

“Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.”

and later;

There is no blinking at the fact that OUR people, OUR territory and OUR interests are in grave danger.  With confidence in OUR armed forces, with the unbounding determination fo OUR people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.”

Last week’s ‘Speech A Week‘ article examines the radio address delivered the previous evening by Eleanor Roosevelt.

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A Speech a Week Series

Words have the power to change the world. Speeches are used by leaders, revolutionaries and evangelists to persuade people to think differently, to feel something new and to behave in remarkable ways.

In this series we will examine one notable speech per week. We hope to cast a wide net – including politicians, business leaders, preachers, entertainers and philosophers. These articles will consider matters of content and style to uncover the secrets of oratorical success.

By examing the components of speechcraft we can improve our own powers of persuasion. We will come to appreciate the craft of eloquence – guarding against silver-tongued miscreants whilst gradually building our own expressive capability.

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