Doing Unto Dewey
Occasionally, an orator delivers a speech that is definitive in his or her career. Abraham Lincoln's A House Divided speech set him on the road to the White House. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Teamsters' Union address innervated a flagging 1944 campaign. Richard Nixon's 1952 Checkers speech saved his political career. And Barbara C. Jordan delivered a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976 that serves as a benchmark for that genre of oratory. Harry S. Truman also delivered a pivotal persuasion, for it energized him and his party, and it probably had some lingering effect with the electorate: "My most successful speech? I believe it was my acceptance address at the Democratic National Convention. That speech was something of a personal spiritual milestone, From that time on, I never doubted that we would win." 1 Others were not so sure, so a major effort was underway to make Truman's speech a good one.
The institutional speech team for this address consisted of Clark Clifford, Charles Murphy, David Bell, and George Elsey. Although Samuel Rosenman had left the Truman team in January 1946, he rejoined the speech staff and generated some major contributions.
The rhetorical blueprint for the speech was supplied by William Batt, Jr., director of the research division of the Democratic National Committee. In a July 9 memorandum, Batt advocated that "the words and phrases should be short, homely, and in character. This is no place for Churchillian grandiloquence," and he suggested that the speech juxtapose