Writing the Rhetoric
This chapter is the counterpart of the one on delivery. There, the focus was on how Roosevelt used voice and gestures to communicate his speeches; here, the inquiry is how he composed the words. To the extent possible, this chapter attempts to shape FDR's theory of presidential rhetoric.
As a point of departure, it is illuminating to compare contemporary speakers of FDR's era. On the newsreels and radio and in person, Father Charles Coughlin, Senator Huey Long, and Fuehrer Adolph Hitler had in common with President Roosevelt the ability to electrify their audiences primarily with their forceful deliveries. Devoid of a live dynamism, however, Coughlin's, Long's, and Hitler's speeches lost considerable voltage on the printed page. Roosevelt's did not. Neither did the speaker's whose oratorical career was similar to FDR's--the Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick. As a famed preacher at Riverside Church in New York City, whose National Vespers radio program reached millions from 1927 to 1946, Fosdick composed his sermons to be delivered from the pulpit and to be read, with little or no editing, in his nineteen books of collected sermons published during this era. At the highest pinnacle of artistic achievement, which Fosdick and FDR attained, good written and oral style meld. Thus, Fosdick's books of sermons and FDR's texts of speeches in the newspapers were not dependent for effect only on delivery. David Halberstam observed that FDR's "speeches were scripted not to be read in the newspapers but to be heard aloud. He is correct by half. 1
First, Roosevelt recognized the requirements of a president to be distant but not detached, apart but not aloof. Verbally, he achieved that posture by selecting language that was a cut above ordinary parlance but not haute couture. Time