Franklin D. Roosevelt as a Rhetorical President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a pre-eminent presidential persuader. FDR's spoken record reveals his rhetorical eloquence during four terms in office. The First Inaugural Address, the acceptance speech at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1936, the 1937 Victory Dinner Address on the Supreme Court fight, the War Message to Congress on December 8, 1941, and the 1944 Teamsters' Union speech are orations of the first order, and they stand secure as paramount examples of their oratorical genre. In rhetoric of the second rank are the 1932 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, the Second Inaugural Address, the 1937 "Quarantine" speech at Chicago, the "Four Freedoms" speech in 1941, and perhaps the Fourth Inaugural Address. His phrases, which coaxed the consciousness of his contemporaries and still caress our collective memories, evoked Roosevelt, the Depression and his New Deal, and World War II: the "forgotten man"; "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; the "economic royalists"; "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny"; "I see one- third'of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished"; "the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor"; and "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy."
As a rhetorical president, Roosevelt exploited the technology of his time to its fullest potential. By radio, he spoke to the entire nation in his major addresses and in the prototypic Fireside Chats. By means of the motion picture newsreels, selected segments of his major addresses or staged retakes of important Fireside Chats and radio addresses portrayed his ebullient, confident delivery and infectious Rooseveltian grin; thus, the sound of his superb voice was reinforced by the visual dynamism of his delivery. FDR also used the press conference in an