The INFAMY SPEECH was a speech delivered by United States President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Within an hour of the speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of
war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into
World War II
* 1 Commentary * 2 Impact and legacy * 3 Media * 4 See also * 5 Notes * 6 References * 7 External links
A first draft of the Infamy Speech, with changes by Roosevelt
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The wreckage of the USS Arizona ablaze after the attack
His revised statement was all the stronger for its emphatic insistence that posterity would forever endorse the American view of the attack. It was intended not merely as a personal response by the President, but as a statement on behalf of the entire American people in the face of a great collective trauma . In proclaiming the indelibility of the attack and expressing outrage at its "dastardly" nature, the speech worked to crystallize and channel the response of the nation into a collective response and resolve.
The first paragraph of the speech was carefully worded to reinforce Roosevelt's portrayal of the United States as the innocent victim of unprovoked Japanese aggression. The wording was deliberately passive. Rather than taking the active voice—i.e. "Japan attacked the United States"—Roosevelt chose to put in the foreground the object being acted upon, namely the United States, to emphasize America's status as a victim. The theme of "innocence violated" was further reinforced by Roosevelt's recounting of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Japan, which the president characterized as having been pursued cynically and dishonestly by the Japanese government while it was secretly preparing for war against the United States.
Roosevelt consciously sought to avoid making the sort of more
abstract appeal that had been issued by President
The "infamy framework" adopted by Roosevelt was given additional resonance by the fact that it followed the pattern of earlier narratives of great American defeats. The Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 had both been the source of intense national outrage and a determination to take the fight to the enemy. Defeats and setbacks were on each occasion portrayed as being merely a springboard towards an eventual and inevitable victory. As Professor Sandra Silberstein observes, Roosevelt's speech followed a well-established tradition of how "through rhetorical conventions, presidents assume extraordinary powers as the commander in chief, dissent is minimized, enemies are vilified, and lives are lost in the defense of a nation once again united under God."
Roosevelt expertly employed one of the three terms defined by the ancient Sophists as essential to their definition of rhetoric. Coming from over two thousand years ago, the idea of kairos , which relates to speaking in a timely manner, makes this speech powerful and rhetorically important. Delivering his speech on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor , Roosevelt presented himself as immediately ready to face this issue, indicating its importance to both him and the nation. As Campbell notes in Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric and the Genres of Governance, war rhetoric is similar to inaugural rhetoric in that the speaker utilizes their speech to inform their audience that now is the necessary time for them to take charge. In this sense, the timing of the speech in coordination with Roosevelt’s powerful war rhetoric allowed the immediate and almost unanimous approval of Congress to go to war. Essentially, Roosevelt’s speech and timing extended his executive powers to not only declaring war but also making war, a power that constitutionally belongs to Congress.
The overall tone of the speech was one of determined realism.
Roosevelt made no attempt to paper over the great damage that had been
caused to the American armed forces, noting (without giving figures,
as casualty reports were still being compiled) that "very many
American lives have been lost" in the attack. However, he emphasized
his confidence in the strength of the American people to face up to
the challenge posed by Japan, citing the "unbounded determination of
our people". He sought to reassure the public that steps were being
taken to ensure their safety, noting his own role as "Commander in
Chief of the Army and Navy" (the
United States Air Force
Roosevelt also made a point of emphasizing that "our people, our
territory and our interests are in grave danger" and highlighted
reports of Japanese attacks in the Pacific between
The speech's "infamy" line is often misquoted as "a day that will live in infamy". However, Roosevelt quite deliberately chose to emphasize the date—December 7, 1941—rather than the day of the attack, a Sunday, which he mentioned only in the last line when he said, "...Sunday, December 7th, 1941,...". He sought to emphasize the historic nature of the events at Pearl Harbor, implicitly urging the American people never to forget the attack and memorialize its date. Notwithstanding, the term "day of infamy" has become widely used by the media to refer to any moment of supreme disgrace or evil.
IMPACT AND LEGACY
Roosevelt's speech had an immediate and long-lasting impact on American politics. Thirty-three minutes after he finished speaking, Congress declared war on Japan, with only one Representative, Jeannette Rankin , voting against the declaration. The speech was broadcast live by radio and attracted the largest audience in US radio history, with over 81 percent of American homes tuning in to hear the President. The response was overwhelmingly positive, both within and outside of Congress. Judge Samuel Irving Rosenman , who served as an adviser to Roosevelt, described the scene:
“ It was a most dramatic spectacle there in the chamber of the House of Representatives. On most of the President's personal appearances before Congress, we found applause coming largely from one side—the Democratic side. But this day was different. The applause, the spirit of cooperation, came equally from both sides. ... The new feeling of unity which suddenly welled up in the chamber on December 8, the common purpose behind the leadership of the President, the joint determination to see things through, were typical of what was taking place throughout the country. ”
The White House was inundated with telegrams praising the president's
stance ("On that Sunday we were dismayed and frightened, but your
unbounded courage pulled us together." ). Recruiting stations were
jammed with a surge of volunteers and had to go on 24-hour duty to
deal with the crowds seeking to sign up, in numbers reported to be
twice as high as after Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war in 1917.
The anti-war and isolationist movement collapsed in the wake of the
speech, with even the president's fiercest critics falling into line.
“ Now has come and we must meet it as united Americans regardless of our attitude in the past toward the policy our Government has followed. ... Our country has been attacked by force of arms, and by force of arms we must retaliate. We must now turn every effort to building the greatest and most efficient Army, Navy and Air Force in the world. ”
Roosevelt's framing of the
Pearl Harbor attack became, in effect, the
standard American narrative of the events of December 7, 1941.
Hollywood enthusiastically adopted the narrative in a number of war
films. Wake Island , the
The President's description of December 7 as "a date which will live
in infamy" was borne out; the date very quickly became shorthand for
Pearl Harbor attack in much the same way that September 11 became
inextricably associated with the 2001 terrorist attacks . The slogans
"Remember December 7th" and "Avenge December 7" were adopted as a
rallying cry and were widely displayed on posters and lapel pins.
Prelude to War (1942), the first of
Sixty years later, the continuing resonance of the
"A date which will live in infamy"
Section of speech with famous phrase. (168 KB , ogg /
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An annotated version of the speech, showing the original wording "a date which will live in world history" *
Anti-war protest sign prior to U.S. entry into World War II. *
Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Avenge December 7!" US Government propaganda poster of 1942
* ^ Presidential Materials, September 11: Bearing Witness to
History, Smithsonian Institution (2002) ("Printed copy of Presidential
address to Congress Reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to
Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor")
* ^ Address by the President of the United States, December 8,
1941, in Declarations of a State of War with Japan and Germany, Senate
Document No. 148 (77th Congress, 1st Session), at p. 7, reprinted at
the University of Virginia School of Law project page, Peter DeHaven
* ^ See Senate Document No. 148 (77th Congress, 1st Session), in
Congressional Serial Set (1942)
* ^ William S. Dietrich, In the shadow of the rising sun: the
political roots of American economic decline (1991), p. xii.
* ^ Franklin Odo, ed., The Columbia documentary history of the
Asian American experience, p. 77.
* ^ "FDR\'s "Day of Infamy" Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms",
Prologue magazine, US National Archives, Winter 2001, Vol. 33, No. 4.
* ^ A B Brown 1998, pp. 117–120
Neil J. Smelser , in Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity,
p. 69. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0-520-23595-9 .
* ^ James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric: key concepts in
contemporary rhetorical studies. Sage Publications Inc, 2001. ISBN
* ^ Hermann G. Steltner, "War Message: December 8, 1941 — An
Approach to Language", in Landmark Essays on Rhetorical Criticism ed.
Thomas W. Benson. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993. ISBN
* ^ Onion, Rebecca (2014-12-08). "FDR\'s First Draft of His "Day of
Infamy" Speech, With His Notes". Slate. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
* ^ A B Emily S Rosenberg, A Date Which Will Live:
Pearl Harbor in
American Memory. Duke University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8223-3206-X .
* ^ A B Sandra Silberstein, War of Words: Language, Politics, and
9/11, p. 15. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-29047-3 .
* ^ Poulakos, John (1983). "Toward a Sophistic Definition of
Rhetoric". Philosophy & Rhetoric. 16 (1): 35–48.
* ^ "Day of infamy", Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions, ed. Elizabeth Webber, Mike Feinsilber. Merriam-Webster, 1999. ISBN 0-87779-628-9 . * ^ Samuel Irving Rosenman, quoted in Brown 1998, p. 119 * ^ Quoted in Brown 1998, p. 119 * ^ Quoted in Brown 1998, p. 120 * ^ Barta 1998, pp. 85–87 * ^ Robert J. Sickels, The 1940s, p. 6. Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 0-313-31299-0 . * ^ Quoted by Benjamin L. Alpers, "This Is The Army", in The World War II Reader, ed. Gordon Martel, p. 167. Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-22402-0 . * ^ Quoted in Barta, 1998, p. 87. * ^ See for instance CNN, "Day of Terror — a 21st century 'day of infamy'", September 2001. * ^ Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: language, politics and counter-terrorism, p. 33. Manchester University Press, 2005. * ^ See e.g. Paul Wolfowitz , "Standup of US Northern Command", speech of October 1, 2002: "Although September 11th has taken its place alongside December 7th as a date that will live in infamy ..." * ^ George W. Bush, Address to the Nation of September 11, 2001.
* Barta, Tony, ed. (1998). Screening the past: film and the
representation of history. Westport, CT : Praeger. ISBN 0-275-95402-1
* Brown, Robert J. (1998). Manipulating the ether : the power of
broadcast radio in thirties America. Jefferson, NC : McFarland. ISBN
* Freidel, Frank (1990). Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with
Little, Brown and Company