Strengths and Weaknesses in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1942 "State of the Union" Address

Published: 2021-09-14 13:55:10
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Category: History of The United States

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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1942 “State of the Union” address is known as a rhetorical and stylistic masterpiece which purpose was to declare war on Japan and to gain support from the citizens. Some events that shaped this address was because of the attack on Pearl Harbor when “the surprise attack by 350 Japanese aircraft sunk, badly damaged eighteen US naval vessels, including eight battleships, destroyed or damaged 300 US aircraft, and killed 2,403 men”. The president spoke on January 6th in front of Congress with one of his famous and memorable speeches. I believe that Franklin Roosevelt had strong contextual aspects in his address such as using patriotism and appealing to the audience’s emotions, but there were some weaknesses that were shown also. He came off as a very powerful speaker, but obviously there is no such thing as a perfect speech.
Patriotism/Emotional AppealFranklin Delano Roosevelt used many emotional and vivid terms that expressed his vision clearly which was one of his strengths throughout this speech. When he first began his address, he reassured everyone that patriotism is what brings the country together. According to the address, President Roosevelt stated, “It is my duty to report upon the State of the Union, I am proud to say to you that the spirit of the American people was never higher than it is today – the Union was never more closely knit together – this country was never more deeply determined to face the solemn tasks before it.” He believed nothing was greater than having vigorous support for the U.S. and that we were who we were because of national pride. Not only that but, he used emotion appeal to catch the audience’s attention. He used empathy in the first section of the speech, “We have most certainly suffered losses — from Hitler’s U-boats in the Atlantic as well as from the Japanese in the Pacific- and we shall suffer more of them before the turn of the tide”. As you can see, Roosevelt brought back some incidents in the past which the listeners recalled and imagined again. After that, he mentioned patriotism and the love of this country again, “But, speaking for the United States of America, let me say once and for all to the people of the world: We Americans have been compelled to yield ground, but we will regain it. We and the other United Nations are committed to the destruction of the militarism of Japan and Germany. We are daily increasing our strength. Soon, we and not our enemies will have the offensive; we, not they, will win the final battles; and we, not they, will make the final peace” (Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley). He resulted in uplifting the mood and bringing back the audience from that gloomy state of mind. Roosevelt appealed to their emotions and imagination which helps the audience identify the message vividly. Another emotional appeal would be serious because he quoted, “We must all understand and face the hard fact that our job now is to fight at distances which extend all the way around the globe.” This shows the audience that it is a significant matter to work together as one. Roosevelt used plenty of emotional appeal to help the audience visualize all that is said. According to Robert A. Dallek an American historian, “Roosevelt, the impression he was tired or bored. FDR’s strengths – his ability to compromise, his regulatory program and awareness of the environment, his diplomacy and care for social well-being”. I believe that the patriotism and appealing to the audiences emotions helped his speech come across smoothly and showed the audience how much Roosevelt wants unity.
False generalization
President Roosevelt also had imperfections when delivering his address. One of the weaknesses throughout his speech was generalizing the public as a whole. Roosevelt spoke on how the public was feeling but did not think about everyone as individuals. Other people react in their own way and have their own personal opinions, which he did not mention at all. For example, Roosevelt spoke, “I know that I speak for the mass of the American people when I say that we reject the turtle policy and will continue increasingly the policy of carrying the war to the enemy in distant lands and distant waters–as far away as possible from our own home grounds.” Here, he is speaking for the thousands of citizens who have their own opinion and views, but he pre assumed what they would want to happen.
No credibility
Another weak aspect from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s did not use anything to refer back to support his statements. As stated in the speech, “In spite of the length, and in spite of the difficulties of this transportation, I can tell you that in two and a half months we already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned by American pilots and crews, which are now in daily contact with the enemy in the Southwest Pacific. And thousands of American troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the air but on the ground as well.” Basically, Roosevelt would report all of that but how does the audience believe whether he’s making it up or if this is a fact. Well, a way he could have improved to assure the audience with this statement is to use numbers and stats to back up everything he stated. According to Jeffrey Tucker, a former Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education, “The president has no access to the information he would need in order to know what he claims to know”.

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