On the early morning of December 7, 1941, the naval base of the United States – Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces. Tragedy at Pearl Harbor was one of the fiercest attacks that the American Navy has endured as the bombing was secretly planned and there was a minimum of soldiers on duty. As a result of a two hour attack, thousands of sailors witnessed how hundreds of ships and planes were damaged. In response to the act of violence against the nation, the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave one of the most significant speeches in the American history. This speech still serves as an example and a guide on how to bring the country that is struck by tragedy into action. This paper will discuss the peculiarities FDR’s speech and the impact it produced.
The President Franklin Roosevelt addressed his speech to the Congress and the citizens of America the next day after the tragedy. The main goals of the speech were to urge the Congress to declare war on the Japanese Empire and to explain the necessity of defending the country to Americans. FDR’s speech, which was delivered in the Congress, televised and broadcasted to the whole nation, had a great impact on its listeners and is remembered to be one of the most successful rhetorics.
There are a number of reasons why Roosevelt’s speech was so successful. Being on the fourth term of his presidency, he gained respect and trust from the people he served. Many speakers try to reinforce their speeches with statistics, numbers and dry facts. Unlike the others, Franklin Roosevelt enforced his arguments with details about the Pearl Harbor attack. This made his speech credible and helped people to realize the seriousness of the situation. Another manner of delivering information about the incident may have not made people unite under the aim of protecting the American territory and citizens. Thus, the ethos of FDR’s speech plays a great role in the plausibility towards what was said.
The next factor that creates a great effect in the rhetoric is its emotionality. Roosevelt based his speech on the ethos as well as on the pathetical arguments. The rhetoric of FDR conveys the feelings of utter sorrow and anger at the tragedy. The emotionality of the speech is preserved due to a lot of components. Thus, the somber tone of the rhetoric stated the seriousness of the event to Americans. Along with establishing the earnestness of the situation, the somber tone claimed listeners’ attention. Changing the tone and loudness of the voice during the speech, the orator managed to produce the feeling of alarm and deepen people’s understanding of the danger.
The pathetic manner in the presentation of the case is not an argument for the Congress, so FDR’s speech had a clear logical argument, too. While the emotionality succeeded in convincing people to protect their Motherland, it was important to persuade the Congress in the necessity of declaring the war. As the governmental politics consists in analyzing facts without emotional involvement, it was important to mention the reasons and consequences of starting war. Roosevelt pointed to the danger and edgy activity that their opponent had presented with the phrases: “Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong…”. This information was to demonstrate that Japanese committed intentional and coordinated attacks. Additionally, by referring to the distance between Japan and the USA, the President has proven that the attack had been planned in advance. Moreover, it meant that Japan concealed the fact of a deliberate attack by fictitious statements of piece. Accordingly, the United States of America had to protect their rights for the peaceful life of their citizens by taking all possible measures.
Having proven the deliberate actions of the Japanese Empire, it was important for Roosevelt to illustrate the violence and destruction that enemy forces had caused. In his speech the President used such words like “deceive”, “deliberately”, “premeditated invasion”, “treachery” to show that Japanese had consciously intended their attack. Such words along with “infamy” were to arouse the feeling of betrayal and disrespect towards the offenders among the public. Consequently, the audience was guided to be united under the same feeling – the feeling of patriotism and desire to stand up for the country.
The speech captured the listener from the very beginning as FDR stated that “yesterday was a date which will live in infamy”. Having used the word “infamy” in relation to this tragedy, Roosevelt identified that this date was of historical importance. Although everyone was well-informed about the happened event, the speaker suggested that this would be remembered for decades as one of the most severe attacks on the country. In this manner, people not only sympathized with the fact of assault, but also felt to be victims of it. By arising the feeling of a slighted victim, FDR influenced the feelings of citizens so that they were ready to do whatever was needed to protect the peaceful life.
One more fact that was important in delivering the information to the listeners was the usage of repetitions. Roosevelt repeated the phrase “Last night” for five times. Consequently, the President emphasized the fact that the event had taken place the day before. Having logically finished his thought, FDR announced that a similar situation had happened “This morning”. Thus, suchlike time emphasis suggested the public that the attack could have been led the next day too. Thus, Roosevelt gave one more reason for people to fight.
Apart from this, the speech not only displayed the approaching danger, but also identified the main enemy. In the sentences where the speaker used the phrase “Last night,” one can also observe the repetition of the phrase “Japanese forces”. Drawing a conclusion, Roosevelt finished his thought with the words “the Japanese”. In such a way, FDR announced the fact that it was not the military forces that had done enormous harm to the USA, but it was the whole Empire that stood behind those actions.
Throughout FDR’s rhetoric one can notice that he used “us” and “our”. Suchlike usage of pronouns signaled that the voice and opinion of every American were taken into account. “The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation”. The usage of personal pronouns played a huge role in the creation of the feeling of unity of all U.S. citizens that should stand together in order to protect the territory they belong to. Apart from this, such form of address created a sense of equality between the Congress, the President and the citizens. All these influenced the connection between the speaker and the public and made it possible to reproduce all the emotions connected with that horrible event and made them understandable to the public.
It is important to keep in mind a lot of factors when appealing to the emotions of a group of people. The usage of emotionally colored words and phrases to evoked negative feelings to the offender could lead to panic and thus the disintegration of the unity of the group. Therefore, it was necessary to persuade the public that they were safe. “As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken in our defense”. “With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God”. In these statements the speaker confirmed that all the necessary measures had been already taken in order to protect the civilians. The President also stated that the U.S. government would “make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us,”corroborating the fact that the government and forces would do everything so that the citizens not become victims of abuse in the future. In this way Roosevelt calmed the public at the time of anxiety and panic and assured the people in the safe tomorrow. All these helped the speaker to unite the country under a sense of patriotism. His words that persuaded the public that they are in a safe hand served as a tool in guiding the public to raise, to defend themselves and to fight for their beliefs, for their safety and for the right to be called American citizens. At the same time, the President said: “Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us”. With this sentence the President implied that the abuse had left an indelible mark in the American history.
The quality of the speech depends not only on its content; it is also important to keep in mind the character of the rhetoric delivered. Having produced the speech, Franklin Roosevelt stood in Congress, spoke into a microphone in front of the agitated public and remained calm, firm and convincing. It is important to mention that the speech was mostly memorized. Thus, this manner of telling the speech greatly contributed to the desirable impact of the rhetoric on the Congress and the people: Congress voted for declaring war on Japan.
The next important tool in the oratorical art is pausing. It is not a secret that pausing helps the speaker to produce the speech fluently as well as to emphasize important facts and arouse emotions towards what is said. In the speech of FDR there are a number of pauses that made an emphasis on the premeditation and ignoble nature of Japanese actions in the first part, and confirmation of the safety of American citizens and the desire and readiness to stand for the United States in the second. Consequently, this oratorical tool played a great role in appealing to the public and forming its patriotic uplift.
It is difficult to change something about the rhetoric that is considered to be one of the best examples of public speeches that has turned the course of history. Having watched and listened the performance of Franklin D. Roosevelt, I came to a conclusion that it lacked information about relations between the USA and the Japanese Empire and the extent of damage that Japanese forces had committed. Thus, I would add more information about these two facts as to my mind, they would also have helped Americans and the Congress to realize the necessity of retaliation. However, the brief narrative has captured listeners’ attention and, in fact, it has formed a dramatic situation that could most closely correspond to the feelings connected with the tragedy that happened on 7 December, 1941.
Franklin D. Roosevelt with his “The Infamy Speech,” or the speech that was to persuade the Congress and the citizens of the United States of America in the necessity of declaring war on Japan , managed to outline the danger that the Japanese Empire presented and brought the whole Nation to fight for their dignity and freedom. The President of the United States motivated the American people to protect their Motherland and win the war. Thus, the speech delivered by Roosevelt the next day after the tragedy left the mark in the history of the USA and will serve as an example of excellent rhetorical art for a long time.