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Speech Techniques In Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Pearl Harbor Address To The Nation”

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On the seventh of December, 1941, the lives of many people drastically changed. In that particular afternoon, all American radio broadcasts were interrupted with important news. Pearl Harbor had been attacked by an unforeseen Japanese air raid. The results of the attack were devastating with over 2,000 people killed and over 20 military ships destroyed. The following day, December 8th, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president at the time, gave an address to the distressed nation regarding the attack. His speech consisted of an explanation of what had taken place at Pearl Harbor, evidence that the attack was in fact predetermined, and a request for the United States of America to wage war against Japan. In his speech entitled the “Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation” – also known as the “Infamy” speech – Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded the government and the people through the appeals of pathos and ethos to declare war against Japan.

Throughout the speech, Roosevelt utilizes two rhetorical modes of ethos and pathos in order to further complete his argument as a whole. Looking at the speech in a larger context, it is evident how Roosevelt uses these appeals when writing his speech to the intended audience. Since he is speaking mainly to the citizens of the United States of America, one of the main appeals Roosevelt uses is Pathos which is the appeal or evocation of emotion. For example, Roosevelt mentions in his speech that “the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace”. By stating that the United States, which implies the nation as a whole, was deceived by Japan into thinking that the Japanese had similar goals of peace in mind, Roosevelt awakens the feeling of betrayal by Japan in the hearts of the American citizens.

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Roosevelt also backs up his argument with the use of ethos, the appeal to ethics or morals. Towards the ending of his speech, Roosevelt asserted that, in regards to Japan, “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory”. In this phrase, Roosevelt incorporates religion into the argument which further inspires the audience, and assures them that it is morally right to wage war against Japan.

The use of ethos and pathos greatly impacted Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation.” At the time that the speech was given, the USA had been recuperating from the First World War. Since the United States of America was trying to uphold a stance of neutrality in the Second World War, it was hesitant to engage in any warfare. Because of this, Franklin D. Roosevelt formulated his speech in such a way, with particular appeal, to not only reveal the evil of Japan’s deeds but also to persuade the nation to declare war. The USA was at its tipping point, and after the shocking news broke out that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, the United States of America finally entered the Second World War.

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