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Rhetorical Analysis on Infamy Speech by Franklin Roosevelt

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Really, he’d hoped to spend that afternoon up in the second floor study, magnifying glass in hand, working on the stamp collection that since boyhood had taught him about the world. But FDR was president, with work to do. He was talking policy with one of his aides when Navy Secretary Frank Knox called

“Mr. President,” he said, sounding doubtful, “it looks like the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor.”

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The President knew that at a time like this the people of the United States felt that their lives were in great danger. He let the people know that all measures would be taken for the country’s defense. He knew that many people would be afraid to enter the war so he gave the country determination to win the war. Throughout the speech FDR presented facts and evidence to prove that the attack was a surprise and to demonstrate that he was familiar with the events that took place. One of the reasons why FDR was declaring war against Japan was because the attack on Pearl Harbor was deliberately planned. He stated that the distance from Hawaii to Japan made it obvious that the attack was planned many days or even weeks in advance

He gave details about the time leading up to the attack when the Japanese government misled the United States by giving false statements of hope for continued peace. By presenting these facts in his speech, FDR proved to his audience that the attack was intentional. Many people would believe that someone knew about the attack, and the President clarified that the attack was a surprise by giving information on the events that took place leading up to the attack. Parts of his speech were logic driven to provide evidence for why the United States was declaring war.

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The use of repetition in this paragraph of Roosevelt’s speech proved to be very clever and useful, as it provides a much greater emphasis for the point being made. Throughout Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech, he structures his argument by first stating that what happened at Pearl Harbor was evil and unpredicted. Then he goes on to state how the United States of America needs to secure itself and provide defense. Finally, he completes his argument with a call to action in response. Another, and probably just as important, part of a speech is word choice. The speaker has the ability to portray many different emotions and meanings to the audience, if the words are chosen in a clever way. When analyzing his speech, it is evident from the beginning that Roosevelt was careful when choosing his words. Roosevelt opens his speech by immediately delivering the devastating news about Pearl Harbor: “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan” (Roosevelt)

In this opening phrase, there are multiple strong words that were chosen to describe what had taken place. Roosevelt used the word “infamy” very wisely in the beginning of speech when he describes December 7th as “a date which will live in infamy”. The word “infamy” literally means ‘being well known for some bad quality or evil deed’, and Roosevelt picked it precisely to portray how evil the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was (Mohan, Braj, 2016). Continuing on in his opening, Roosevelt couples the words “suddenly” and “deliberately” to describe how Pearl Harbor was attacked.

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As can be seen, although the primary purpose of this speech was to urge Congress to declare war on Japan, it was also televised nationally and served the secondary purpose of urging the American people to take up the fight against Japan as well. FDR’s use of both pathetical and logical proofs was extremely effective in spurring America to declare war on the Japanese Empire.

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“A Pearl Harbor Fact Sheet.” National WWII Museum.

Mohan, Braj. “A Demonstration of the Discourse Dissection Model (DDM) with an analysis of FD Roosevelt’s ‘Pearl Harbour address to the nation’.” SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, vol. 13, no. 1, 2016, p. 62+. Academic OneFile

Roosevelt, Franklin D. “Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation.” American Rhetoric. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

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