Franklin D. Roosevelt: Four Freedoms Speech as Oratorical Masterpiece

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Franklin D. Roosevelt: Four Freedoms speech as Oratorical Masterpiece

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Shortly after Franklin D. Roosevelt helped pull our country out of the Great Depression with his “New Deal,” he was re-elected for his third term, becoming the only president to serve more than two terms. This was before, and also the reason why, term limits were introduced. He was re-elected into office in 1940, and gave his speech “The Four Freedoms” on January 9, 1941 to Congress. The speech would be broadcasted across the country on radio for the American people to hear. In his speech, FDR says urgently to the American people that action must be taken to help out France and Britain in the War with Nazi Germany. Roosevelt gracefully implicates a number of rhetorical devices in order to persuade the American population that in order to keep our own freedoms and democracy safe, we must in turn help ally countries keep their values safe as well.

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After signing a peace treaty and paying huge repercussions from the damage they caused in what was known at the time “The Great War,” (soon to be known as World War I) Germany needed to bounce back, and Adolf Hitler promised just. After gaining the German peoples’ trust, Hitler had taken over much of Europe and was looking to expand even farther. Great Britain was struggling to hold on to their borders with France as their ally, and it seemed like soon all of Europe would belong to Nazi Germany. It was clear that they needed more help to stop Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, but the American people were heavily against war at the time because of our previous involvement in “The Great War.” This made it extremely difficult for our government and military to lend a hand to European countries who were in great risk of losing their freedoms to a dictator. Franklin D. Roosevelt had just become the first person to hold a third term in office, winning his re-election by a landslide, and it was obvious that America trusted him as a leader. This meant is was up to FDR and his “Four Freedoms” speech to talk the American people into helping our European neighbors stop the rise of Nazi Germany. A year after his re-election, Roosevelt would stand in front of congress and be broadcasted across the nation, to everyone’s radios at home, reinvigorating the American peoples’ gratitude for their freedoms with his skillful rhetoric.

FDR is a master of rhetoric in many ways, and is often thought to be our most persuasive president. He seems to be able to use rhetorical devices with great ease, and is a master of getting the people energetic and passionate about just about anything. He does so through many rhetorical devices, one of those being logos. Logos, meaning logic, is the rhetorical device of using logic and reasoning in order to convince or persuade an audience. For example, when FDR is trying to convince the American people that we should get involved in World War II he states, “Even when the World War broke out in 1914, it seemed to contain only small threat of danger to our own American future. But as time went on, as we remember, the American people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic nations might mean to our own democracy” (Roosevelt 2). Here, Roosevelt is giving the people a cause and effect scenario in order to persuade them to act. He is saying that many of the wars in the past didn’t have much of an effect on us directly, but if we just continue to sit back and watch other democratic countries fall, we could very well be next. This is a great use of logos, and he delivered it wonderfully, showing many Americans why it was our patriotic duty to get involved in the war. Another great method Roosevelt uses of delivering logos is using statistics to help back up what you are saying or make it more believable. “In the recent national election there was no substantial difference between the two great parties in respect to that national policy. No issue was fought out on this line before the American electorate” (Roosevelt 4). What Roosevelt is saying is that no matter the differences of political party in the election, everybody was pretty much on the same page about our national security, that we had to help outside of our borders. In saying this, he is showing the audience that his views and ideas on national policy are not coming from a bias of political party, furthering the American peoples’ belief in him.

A long with logos, Roosevelt relies heavily on the rhetorical device pathos. Pathos, meaning emotions, is the method of using your audiences’ emotions as a tool to persuade them. In this speech, the emotion that he taps in to mostly in this speech is fear. More specifically, the fear of what’s to come. The fear of the fall of our country’s democracy and the stripping of our rights and freedoms. In connection with that fear, he digs up our gratitude for said freedom. “The American people have unalterably set their faces against that tyranny” (Roosevelt 2). FDR says this in order to remind the American people of their strong and passionate opposition against foreign powers trying to establish dominance in the world and strip countries of their democracy. “I find it unhappily necessary to report that the future and safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders” (Roosevelt 2). In saying this, FDR is trying to inform the American people of the dangers that await, but also is allowing himself to be vulnerable by sharing his feelings of discernment with what is going in. He is hoping to let the audience connect with him, and understand that he is just as worried about what is happening as any average person. I definitely find pathos to be Roosevelt’s most effective rhetorical device. He is extremely adept at putting emotions into words in ways that make the audience connect with him almost as if they can relate to him.

Ethos, meaning credibility, is a rhetorical device used to persuade the audience of the speaker’s credibility or character. Roosevelt is very effective in using ethos, although he doesn’t tend to rely on it as much as the other rhetorical devices. He uses ethos in this speech to establish a sort of self-confidence with the audience, making everything he says sound more credible. As if they automatically believe his words simply because of how sure of himself he sounds. The more he believes in himself, the easier it is for him to persuade. “These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world” (Roosevelt 7). When FDR says this, he is talking about the basic necessities that Americans expect of their political and economic system. He is very confident in his words to make sure that he delivers his message clearly. That no matter how high of a danger we are facing with our foreign affairs, maintaining jobs and a standard of living among other things for our population is still of very high importance. Without ethos, he may not have been as successful at convincing the people of what America’s priorities should be. By saying what he said boldly and without doubting himself or the truthfulness of his words, he was able to make the American people confidently put their faith in him as their leader.

11 months after Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his “Four Freedoms” speech Pearl Harbor was surprise attacked by the Japanese, and America declared war on Japan. During those 11 months, however, his message resonated in the ears of the American people. Roosevelt’s speech succeeded in helping get our country out of the isolationist mentality we were in for so long. The people felt very strongly that we had no business getting into affairs outside of our own borders, but FDR easily convinced them that it was in our best interest to get out there and support our allies. Pearl Harbor, being the tragic day it was, was the beginning of our involvement in the War that most of the world was already fighting for a few years now. Europe was starting to lose sight of victory, belonging mostly to Nazi Germany, and at any moment they could be coming to our borders, trying to take away our freedom. He reminded the American people of how grateful they were for their freedoms, and of their fear of having those freedoms taken away. This greatly helped sway the peoples’ support in favor of involvement in the war, even if it just meant sending weapons and ammunition to countries that needed our support. Americans would not just stand back and watch as the world fell victim to a Nazi dictator. We had to do something. Once again, Franklin Roosevelt proved himself to be one of the most persuasive leaders this country has been led by.

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