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Edwin Ropp

Ms. Morris
6th period
February 9, 2015

Rhetorical Analysis of FDRs Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation


December 7th 1941 a date which will live in infamy are words that began one of the
most famous speeches in history (Roosevelt). Throughout American history, there have been
many great speeches used to try to persuade the public, but perhaps one of the greatest is
Franklin D. Roosevelts Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation. The purpose of FDRs speech was
to give the facts of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and to lay out why America should go to war to
retaliate against the Japanese. In his speech, FDR used rhetorical devices with the purpose of
convincing Congress to declare war on the Japanese and to rally the American people.
In the opening statement of his speech, FDR, the President of the United States,
addressed the Vice President, the Speaker, and members of the House and Senate, recognizing
the audience of his speech, and setting up his authority, or ethos, over his audience. His strong
use of diction, with phrases such as: a date which will live in infamy and suddenly and
deliberately attacked, expressed his sadness and disdain that an act such as the bombing of Pearl
Harbor would be commited against the United States (Roosevelt). By stating the fact, or logos,
that The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in
conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in

the Pacific, FDR proved that the United States had done nothing to provoke or deserve the
attack on Pearl Harbor thus rallying American citizens to support the declaration of war
(Roosevelt).
FDR attacked the integrity of the Japanese in the next section of his speech by playing on
the emotions, or pathos, of the American people to enrage them against the Japanese because
they deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of
hope for continued peace (Roosevelt). He continued his attack on the Japanese using imagery to
show that Japan had to have deliberately planned the attack on Pearl Harbor many weeks in
advance because of the distance of Japan from Hawaii (Roosevelt). FDR also used facts to
support this section of his speech such as that the United States was in diplomatic negotiations
with Japan and that the Japanese, even an hour after they bombed Pearl Harbor, had given no
threat of war. With the use of facts, imagery, and emotions, FDR proved that the attack on Pearl
Harbor was an act of war that had to be addressed by the American government and people.
In the next section, which was the pinnacle of his speech, FDR used many powerful,
rhetorical devices. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost
(Roosevelt). With this statement, FDR played on his audiences emotions which made the need
to go to war more personal. The imagery of these words and others, such as has caused severe
damage to American naval and military forces, made his audience feel like they were at the
bombing of Pearl Harbor and, once again, gave the audience a more personal connection with the
attack (Roosevelt). FDRs ethos was strengthened in this section of the speech because he knew
all the facts of the attack and shared them with the American public.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked (Roosevelt). FDR used the rhetorical device of
repetition with these words. He highlighted each place that the Japanese had launched a surprise

attack emphasizing that Japans war plan was larger than just Pearl Harbor. Listing all of the
places that Japan attacked by name, FDR used pathos to again enrage Congress and the
American citizens against the Japanese. He also used pathos with phrases such as surprise
offensive and implications to the very life and safety of our nation (Roosevelt). His strong use
of diction stirred peoples emotions that the existence of the United States and other countries
were under threat. He ends this section by addressing people with opposing viewpoints by stating
that the United States has to go to war to protect the country.
In the closing section of his speech, FDR again exerted his ethos with the statement, As
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our
defense (Roosevelt). He affirmed his authority over all the armed forces and had already told
them to be ready to defend the United States. Throughout his speech FDR asserted his authority,
but in the final section, he emphasized that he was in charge. FDRs use of pathos provoked a
sense of patriotism for the safety of the United States with word choices such as righteous
might and defend ourselves to the uttermost (Roosevelt). With these emotional words, he was
trying to rally the American people around the war effort because their nation was in danger and
they had to act now. Throughout the entire speech, FDR used the rhetorical device of repetition,
repeatedly mentioning the surprise attack by the Japanese. In the final section of his speech, he
again emphasized this fact in order to drive the point home to his audience. With confidence in
our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable
triumph, FDRs confident tone and diction helped to reassure the American people that they
could not be defeated (Roosevelt).

FDRs use of rhetorical devices such as repetition, ethos, logos, pathos, and diction
helped to create a powerful and memorable speech for his audience. It also helped him to attain
his purpose which was to persuade Congress to declare war on Japan and convince the American
people that war was the only solution. FDR ended his impassioned speech to Congress and the
American people with these words, I ask that the Congress declare a state of war
(Roosevelt).

Works Cited
Roosevelt, Franklin D. "Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation." Pearl Harbor Address to the
Nation. House of Representatives, Washington D.C. 8 Dec. 1941. AmericanRhetoric.com.
Web. 22 Feb. 2015.