My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses That Shaped History

My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses That Shaped History

My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses That Shaped History

My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses That Shaped History


The presidency, in Theodore Roosevelt's famous words, is a "Bully Pulpit." Humes, a former White House speechwriter, here gives us a unique perspective on presidential speech writing. No other book has examined the major presidential addresses--their construction and their impact--as history, and no one has studied the presidency from this vantage point. This is a vital study of American political history seen through the prism of selected presidential addresses. It reveals how presidents used major addresses to give a theme for their administration, to introduce history-making legislation or programs, or to rally a majority of the nation behind their policies.


In America, every bright young man--and today, every bright young woman as well--dreams of becoming president. But few young Americans dream of becoming a politician.

Respect for the Office of the Chief Executive and a healthy if sometimes excessive disrespect for the profession of politics have colored the popular history of the American presidency to a remarkable extent.

We tend to revere those presidents whom we remember as visionaries and prophets, men whose charismatic gifts allowed them to personify an age, a historic breakthrough, a cherished ideal, or even a temporary but vivid "mood."

But with rare exceptions, those presidents we deem "great" also have exhibited exceptional political skills--the ability to make our dreams come true, quite literally, in concrete legislation or executive action.

With the possible exceptions of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, no president has inspired more genuine reverence among the American people than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the Georgia of my early childhood, I can remember seeing tattered magazine photographs of FDR hung in an honored spot in the backwoods tarpaper shacks of the poorest dirt farmers. Georgians considered themselves especially blessed that the president chose our own Warm Springs as his holiday retreat, and thousands lined the railroad tracks and roads each time he made the trek south.

But it is equally clear that Roosevelt was an immensely shrewd and resourceful politician who never issued a ringing challenge to the American spirit without a clear and practical objective in mind.

FDR's biographer James MacGregor Burns agreed with that assessment when he titled his book Roosevelt, the Lion and the Fox. Burns was alluding . . .

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