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Three Political Speeches: The World Must be Made Safe for Democracy, The Flame of French Resistance, A New Frontier

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The speeches that will be analyzed in this paper are Woodrow Wilson’s The World Must be Made Safe for Democracy which was a way for Wilson to justify his call for a declaration of war on Germany, then Charles de Gaulle’s The Flame of French Resistance where De Gaulle exhorted the French to not give up against the German, and finally John F. Kennedy’s A New Frontier which was Kennedy speaking of a future that provided better housing and transportation for a new America.

In April of the year 1917, Woodrow Wilson which was the president of the US at the time, went into a conference with Congress where he was trying to find a way for the audience of his famous speech, Congress, to accept his declaration of war with Germany. Wilson stated that in order for the world to “be made safe for democracy”, this war had to happen. After almost a week from the day Wilson made his speech, Congress finally decided to declare war on Germany. Wilson on his speech said to Congress that “It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance” (69). Wilson was saying that at the time, the war in Europe had already lasted almost three years, not to mention that it was already considered one of the conflicts with the largest number of casualties in human history. By the time the war ended a year and a half later, an entire generation was killed, many countries like France lost half its men between the ages of twenty and thirty-two.

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Since Congress voted to declare war against Germany four days after the speech, this meant that Wilson was successful at convincing the audience, Congress, to accept his request. Wilson was able to do this because he provided different strategies in his speech to sound convincing and reliable. Woodrow Wilson uses ethos and pathos in his speech to reach the audience and successfully convince them into agreeing with his vision on Germany. Wilson uses ethos at the beginning of the speech where he says “With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking… responsibility… to which I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the imperial German government to be in fact nothing else than war…” (59). Wilson is saying that, him as the president of the United States, someone who deems his constitutional duty to his people, advises Congress to declare war on Germany. Wilson is using his position to show credibility which engages the audience to think of Wilson as someone reliable. Wilson also uses pathos many times in his speech, one of them can easily be found at the end of the speech. Wilson ends his speech by saying “God helping her, she can do no other” (61), Wilson here says that God will help America, Wilson uses pathos to appeal to the religion and furthermore convince his audience by giving them a feeling of protection by God. At last, Wilson also uses anaphora to make his speech even more appealing, “We are…We are now about…We are glad…We have no selfish…” (60). Wilson uses an anaphora in his speech because it makes his audience feel included and almost like if they are participating. Since the audience can anticipate the next line it draws them into the speech which makes it more appealing.

In June of 1940, it was clear that France was losing their country to the German invasion. Refusing to sign a settlement, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud was forced to quit. He was replaced by Philippe Petain who made clear his intention to seek an agreement of surrender with Germany. Not happy with this decision, General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, escaped to England on June 15. De Gaulle asked for and obtained permission from Winston Churchill to make a speech on BBC radio. De Gaulle exhorted the French to not give up hope and to continue the fight against the German occupation.

Charles de Gaulle which was a veteran of the First World War and then became a General, had the intention of motivate and give hope to the French people through this speech. Since De Gaulle disagreed with the idea of just giving up against Germany, he told the French people to keep fighting. De Gaulle acted as an inspiration to the French resistance and successfully motivated thousands of Frenchmen throughout the world. De Gaulle uses pathos and logos in his speech. He uses logos by stating the facts of how Germany is indeed stronger and is taking over France, “It is quite true that we were, and still are, overwhelmed by enemy mechanized forces…” (192), De Gaulle starts off his speech by admitting the truth, that France’s force is nothing compared to Germany’s, by doing this De Gaulle develops a feeling of trust and pretty much tells the audience that he is not going to lie to them. Then he uses pathos, “Must we abandon all hope? Is our defeat final and irremediable? To those questions I answer – No!” (192). Right after stating the facts and admitting Germany’s superiority, De Gaulle uses pathos to contribute to the motivation that he is trying to convey, not only that but he also uses a metaphor which became the slogan of the movement, “Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and shall not die” (193), this is the point where De Gaulle is trying to start a resistance and give strength to the French.

After the indifferent years with Eisenhower as president, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy offered new horizons and new hope to Americans, calling them to join him on the new frontier. At the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles he had defeated Hubert Humphrey, Stuart Symington, Lyndon Johnson, and Adlai Stevenson to win the nomination for the presidential election. As he spoke at the ceremony of acceptance, he was flanked by his mother and sister, and by his defeated rivals. As the sun set he spoke, facing west, to 80,000 Democrats in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and thirty five million Americans watching him on television. His face was tired and exhausted after a year of strain and a week of sleeplessness. His voice was sad and low. This reflected the amount of work and though he really put into his vision of a new frontier. John Kennedy won the election by a narrow margin over Richard Nixon and became in January the following year the youngest, and first Roman Catholic, president in all of the US history.

John F. Kennedy uses all three rhetorical strategies pathos, logos, and ethos. He starts off the speech by quoting Winston Churchill which is ethos because he is using someone reliable to further emphasize his point. “As Winston Churchill said…If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future” (294), by quoting Churchill, Kennedy is trying to show the audience that someone as reliable as Churchill has the same thoughts as him. Kennedy then uses logos to state a fact of why is it important to look for a new frontier rather than “stay in the past”. “All over the world… young men are coming to power, men who are not bound by the traditions of the past, men who are not blinded by the old fears…” (295), Kennedy here says that new countries merging up have young people coming to power, which was a fact, and since they’re young and don’t know about the fear of the past, they can cast off old slogans and delusions and suspicions. Halfway the speech, Kennedy uses an anaphora to make his speech more appealing to the audience, “the frontier of the 1960’s – a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils – a frontier of unfilled hopes and threats” (295). By using an anaphora Kennedy makes this “new frontier” look more appealing and bright. Finally at the end of the speech Kennedy uses pathos, “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed” (296), Kennedy uses pathos at the end to motivate the American people into looking for a better future, he wants the people to look forward and not to what’s already history, he wants to make the new history.

Works Cited

  • MacArthur, Brian. The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches. London: Penguin Books, 1999. Print
  • Yagan, Sam. “Woodrow Wilson: World War I.” SparkNotes, SparkNotes, 2014, www.sparknotes.com/biography/wilson/section10/.
  • Crohn, Max. “Charles De Gaulle: The Flame of French Resistance.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Apr. 2007, www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/29/greatspeeches1.
  • Crohn, Max. “Charles De Gaulle: The Flame of French Resistance.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Apr. 2007, www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/29/greatspeeches1.
  • “Wilson’s War Message to Congress.” Wilson’s War Message to Congress – World War I Document Archive, The WW1 Document Archiver, 29 May 2009, https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Wilson’s_War_Message_to_Congress.

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