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Campbell FDR Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

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Tracy Campbell

on 14 September 2015

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Transcript of Campbell FDR Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

The Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Prior to the Speech
World War II had begun in Europe, and Japan had allied itself with the central powers. America had not been directly involved in any of the fighting. Japan, looking to gain control of all the Pacific Islands, attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in a sneak attack on Sunday morning. The attack killed 2,403 people and wounded 1,178. Two battleships were totally lost in the attack and six other battleships were damaged. The speech occurs one day after the attack.
The Audience
President Roosevelt is giving this speech in the presence of the House of Representatives and the Senate but his primary audience includes the nation as a whole who are listening to the radio broadcast of the speech. The speech was broadcast to people around the world. His speech has the secondary audience of those who read or listen to it after the day it was given, such as us, but later readers and listeners were not the primary focus.
What makes this speech so special?
This speech occurred after an especially tragic event that is still part of the national history. The line from the speech "a date that will live in infamy" is a line still used to describe that day. The way Roosevelt gave this speech brought the United States into World War II changing the shape of the war. The historical events surrounding this speech and the coolness that Roosevelt gave it after such a crisis is what makes it memorable.
The Response
Throughout the speech, during FDR's pauses, the Congressmen and Senators were clapping for him. After his speech, the Senate unanimously voted to declare war on Japan and the House of Representatives only got one vote against the war.
The Tone
While the tone of the speech is serious, urgent, and upsetting, there is also an underlying feeling of determination to defeat Japan and get justice for the lives lost and damage done.
The mood angers the audience over the actions of the Japanese and justifies in the minds of the audience the votes for war. It gives Americans hope at getting over the tragedy.
Rhetorical Strategies
President Roosevelt begins his speech by addressing the fact that an attack had occurred and then broadcasts how the Japanese had deceived the Americans about it. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack." By placing the blame on the Japanese so early, FDR easily sways the crowd to his side. By listing all of the places Japan has attacked it makes FDR seem more reliable and his facts more correct. Ending the speech with the appeal to the patriotic side of the country, FDR was able to ensure Congress would be swayed to his side. When FDR describes the relationship between the Empire of Japan and the United States, he is able to justify to the people why it is Japan is in the wrong. Calling the attack deliberate also helps to support FDR's argument. Adding dates and times such as last night also makes the argument stronger and more persuasive.
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Conduplicatio, repetition, syntactical parallelism - "Last night, Japanese forces attacked" makes the attacks seem as if there is a large force attacking and the threat is severe.

The caesura & the aposiopesis "a day that will live in infamy" signifies how terrible the attack was and makes the need to respond to the attack seem great.
The alliteration of the letter D in the fourth paragraph reminds the audience of the sound of an attack of guns or bombs in the rhythmic repetition. It gives the sense of attack and deliberate harm the Japanese caused through the bombing.
The negative connotations of the words chosen (diction) to describe the actions of the Japanese such as "deliberately" and "attacked" makes the audience feel as if the Japanese were vicious people looking to purposely harm the United States for no reason.
The parallelism in the statement "our people, our territory and our interests" emphasizes what it is that FDR is calling the people to fight for and why the fighting is needed. It makes it seem like the problem affects everyone and not just the people on the base.
The synecdoche of the Japanese Empire in the first paragraph makes it appear all of Japan attacked the United States instead of just the armed forces and the threat seem much bigger.
President Roosevelt already had established credibility going into the speech. He had been giving Fireside talks - radio talks that were broadcast to the households of America, so the American people already trusted him. He was also serving as president of the United States, giving him the power of Commander-in-Chief, allowing the people to trust him on military matters. FDR estblishes his credibility within this particular speech through his knowledge of the actions of Japan by listing where the Japanese had attacked, using dates and describing the talks the United States Government had been having with Japan. Credibility is also established directly prior to this speech when FDR is introduced as the President of the United States.
President Roosevelt crafts his speech to gain a strong emotional response out of the audience. FDR manipulates his word choice/diction to move people to support the United States entering in World War II. When describing Japan and its actions, Roosevelt employs words such as "deliberate," "premeditated," and "attacked" all of which have strong negative connotations. By painting the Japanese in such a negative light, Roosevelt convinces citizens of the U.S. that the Japanese are the ones at fault; while the Americans are painted as the victims of an unknown sneak attack when the U.S. government was having discussions of peace. President Roosevelt also evokes emotion when he wields the phrase "so help us God." Since the people of this time were strongly religious, this phrase gave the idea that America was entering a long - but just - fight where God was on its side.
The syntax of the phrase "Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us" is rhetoric because it emphasizes the significance of the attack and how terrible it was, by placing the infinite amount of time it will affect the United States at the front of the sentence.
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