My Fellow Americans: Presidents Speak to the People in Troubled Times [NOOK Book]


The most interesting and inspiring presidential speeches, from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

From Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, American presidents have faced unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. From the onset of the Great Depression, through World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, Desert Storm and the War on Terror, American presidents have warned and rallied the nation during each crisis. Presidents have also addressed the ...

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My Fellow Americans: Presidents Speak to the People in Troubled Times

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The most interesting and inspiring presidential speeches, from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

From Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, American presidents have faced unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. From the onset of the Great Depression, through World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, Desert Storm and the War on Terror, American presidents have warned and rallied the nation during each crisis. Presidents have also addressed the people in times of triumph -- the creation of the United Nations, advances in civil rights, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

My Fellow Americans includes the speeches that capture times of challenge, conflict and change, with such memorable phrases as "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," "Ask not what your country can do for you" and "Begin again the work of remaking
America," which have entered the vernacular and have become a part of our heritage.

This book is a record of how our presidents established their leadership through thick and thin. The language of the speeches reflects the country's mood over decades of fear and hope and the ongoing faith and values that sustain our nation.

My Fellow Americans is divided into six parts:

  • 1933-1945: Roosevelt
  • 1945-1961: T ruman and Eisenhower
  • 1961-1969: Kennedy and Johnson
  • 1969-1981: Nixon, Ford and Carter
  • 1981-1993: Reagan and Bush
  • 1993-2009: Clinton, Bush and Obama.

Each part is introduced with a short essay that provides a timeline and context for the events of the period.

There is also an introduction to the book that focuses on the president's use of language to inspire listeners. Illustrated with 30 black-and-white historical photographs, My Fellow Americans is a stunning testament to America's recent history.

The American Constitution, Article II, Section 3, mandates that the president "shall from time to time give to Congress information on the state of the union." Since George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address in 1790, each president has addressed Congress and the people of the United States every year. Presidents have also given inaugural and farewell addresses as well as many formal and informal speeches. From these speeches there is a vivid and immediate record of the major triumphs and tragedies the nation has faced and clear portraits of the men who have led.

Famous speeches in the book include:

Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address, 1933:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Eisenhower's Farewell Address, 1961:

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex."

Kennedy's Inaugural Address, 1961:

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."

Johnson's State of the Union Address, 1967:

"We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war."

Reagan's Evil Empire speech, 1983:

"[Do not] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire."

George W. Bush's State of the Union Address, 2004:

"We are engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century."

Barack Obama's Inaugural
Address, 2009:

"Begin again the work of remaking America."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though overwhelming in its entirety, this collection of presidential speeches provides an insightful look at our nation's darkest periods, and the careful words our leaders chose to offer comfort and inspiration. In each of the book's six sections, covering 1935 to the present, author, publisher and historian Worek's carefully selected speeches illustrate perfectly each era's most pervasive challenges. Some speeches will spark instant recognition, including FDR's inaugural speech ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself") and Gerald Ford's swearing-in ("I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots"), and many phrases from Depression-era speeches, though 75 years old, sound eerily contemporary. The book's focus on devastating national events (the 1995 Oklahoma Bombings, the September 11 terrorist attacks, etc.) is inescapably depressing, but brings a measure of much-needed perspective on today's pressing issues. Happily, Worek ends with words of hope from President Obama: "We will rebuild, we will recover."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
American Profile
A handy reminder for everyone of the power--and beauty--of words in times of crisis, celebration and change.
— Neil Pond
American Profile - Neil Pond
Since its beginnings, America has looked to its presidents for words of action or assurance. This collection of speeches from 1933 to 2009 features the full text of the most inspirational and inspiring Chief of State addresses from FDR to Barack Obama. With 30 black-and-white photos illustrative of the times, it's a must for history buffs and a handy reminder for everyone of the power—and beauty—of words in times of crisis, celebration and change.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770880580
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 12/23/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: eBook
  • Pages: 312
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

edited by Michael Worek
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contents Part One
The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself.


Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Great Depression
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

The New Deal
To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit ... It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers. The Federal Government must and shall quit this business of relief.
State of the Union Address, January 4, 1935

Preparing For War
It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that, unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the western hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction.
Radio Address Announcing an Unlimited National Emergency, May 27, 1941

Pearl Harbor
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan, December 8, 1941

All-Out War
We have already tasted defeat. We may suffer further setbacks. We must face the fact of a hard war, a long war, a bloody war, a costly war.
State of the Union Address, January 6, 1942

Contents Part Two
The Threat of War is Still very Real


Harry S. Truman

The Truman Doctrine
The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died.
Address before a Joint Session of Congress, March 12, 1947

Communism vs. Democracy We are aided by all who desire freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to live their own lives for useful ends. Our allies are the millions who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Inaugural Address, January 20, 1949

The Korean War
Our men are fighting, alongside their United Nations allies, because they know, as we do, that the aggression in Korea is part of the attempt of the Russian communist dictatorship to take over the world, step by step.
State of the Union Address, January 8, 1951

Soviet Aggression
Do not be deceived by the strong face, the look of monolithic power that the communist dictators wear before the outside world. Remember their power has no basis in consent.
State of the Union Address, January 7, 1953

Farewell Address
There is no job like it on the face of the earth in the power which is concentrated here at this desk, and in the responsibility and difficulty of the decisions.
January 15, 1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Faith In Freedom
The world and we have passed the midway point of a century of continuing challenge. We sense with all our faculties that forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history.
Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

International Communism
The divisive force is international communism and the power that it controls. The designs of that power, dark in purpose, are clear in practice. It strives to seal forever the fate of those it has enslaved. It strives to break the ties that unite the free.
Inaugural Address, January 21, 1957

Farewell Address
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
January 17, 1961

Contents Part Three
To Defend Freedom in its Hour of Maximum Danger


John F. Kennedy

Religious Freedom
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President ... how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.
Houston Ministerial Association September 12, 1960

A New Generation
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it.
Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

The Berlin Crisis
West Berlin ... has now become, as never before, the great testing place of Western courage and will, a focal point where our solemn commitments stretching back over the years since 1945, and Soviet ambitions now meet in basic confrontation.
Report to the American People, July 25, 1961

The Cuban
Missile Crisis

For many years, both the Soviet Union and the United States ... have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge.
Report to the American People October 22, 1962

The Search for Peace
We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now see beyond us.
American University Address, June 10, 1963

Civil Rights
The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.
Radio and Television Report, June 11, 1963

The Berlin Wall
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."
Remarks at the Rudolph Wilde Platz June 26, 1963

Lyndon B. Johnson

John F. Kennedy's Assassination
All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today. The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time.
Address to Joint Session of Congress November 27, 1963

The Great Society
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
Remarks at the University of Michigan May 22, 1964

We Shall Overcome
There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.
Special Message to Congress, March 15, 1965

The Domino Theory
We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war -- a war almost certain to follow, I believe, if the communists succeed in overrunning and taking over South Vietnam by aggression and by force.
State of the Union Address, January 10,

On Vietnam

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In his Farewell Address to the Nation, Gerald Ford sought to repair some of the damage done to the highest office in the land by the impeachment proceedings and subsequent resignation of Richard Nixon when he warned Congress that, despite the abuse of privilege, a strong presidency was absolutely necessary because "When the President speaks, he speaks for the Nation." These few words capture the essence of why presidential speeches are so important in understanding modern American history. By selecting the topics to address, the president arranges the priorities of his administration. By speaking to the people he effectively goes over the head of Congress and, as the only elected official who represents all the citizens everywhere, informs, mobilizes and inspires his vast constituency. Even when the president is addressing Congress or a small select audience, he is aware that the people are always listening and chooses his words accordingly.

In the American system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government, the president, for all the power of his high office, is severely limited in his ability to implement his programs. To be successful, he must motivate the people to demand action from the Congress. Without a strong leader to provide vision and leadership, Congressional debate degrades into partisan and sectarian squabbling; even in the best of times, Congress usually only follows the president's direction reluctantly and part of the way.

This balance between the president and Congress is always delicate, but the combination of a strong president willing to act and the demand of the people for action is often the only thing that can persuade Congress to act. In Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address he reassures the people that if Congress is unwilling or unable to act in a way that alleviates the situation,
he will ask for "broad Executive power to wage war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe." In speaking on the need for civil rights legislation, Johnson warns Congress that although as a young man he never expected that he would have a chance to make a difference, "now I do have that chance -- and I'll let you in on a secret -- I mean to use it."

The president's job demands the ability to lead as well as the ability to govern. Particularly in today's digital age, in which every move, word and gesture is captured and replayed on television for the world to see, no president can be effective without the ability to hold center stage in front of millions of eyes.

The intent of this book is to showcase the leadership and vision shown by presidents as they have addressed the nation. Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of the Great
Depression in 1933 and ending with Barack Obama's address on the collapsing economy of 2009, here are some of the most significant and readable speeches given by American presidents in troubled times. Many of them read as vividly as the day they were written and are masterpieces of the English language and concise summaries of important ideas, a tribute both to their authors and to the importance of the history they record. All of them, however, are important in that they portray, in the language of the time, history as it was being made from the most powerful office in the world. While historians can carefully analyze the language, seeking hidden meanings and patterns, the success of any speech is measured not in what future generations think of it, but in how well it achieves its most important task -- to inspire and motivate the listener to immediately take or support some course of action.

Consistent with the power of the presidency itself, these speeches do not plead or request or suggest -- they are the voice of authority and they state clearly and unequivocally the way in which the president intends to proceed. They constitute a clear warning, to friend and foe alike, of just what course the president will take in confronting the challenges before him. Some presidents were naturally gifted speakers and have left speeches that will survive as examples of the best of their kind, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan being among them. Their language is so memorable that the words chosen to convey the message can receive more attention than the message itself. To say "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," or "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country," or "government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem" captures the essence of the time and the challenges that confronted the nation.

But eloquence, however welcome, must also be matched with specific promises and proposals. Empty words are the most dangerous of all -- for no one regards a presidential address as a casual chat about inconsequential things. In troubled times the people expect and deserve leadership. If that leadership is lacking, the result is likely to be an increased sense of fear that not only are things bad, but that no one in charge knows what to do about it. Throughout these speeches, then, the language of leadership defines the expectations of the audience.

Some themes occur so frequently in these speeches that they are worth noting as indicative of the way our leaders thought and spoke over three quarters of a century. References to God's blessing, the lessons to be learned from the Founding Fathers, the necessity to preserve our freedom at all costs, the warning against preferring material success over the good of the nation, and the danger of big government and a loss of power by the people, to name only a few themes,
flow through the language from Roosevelt's speeches to Obama's assertion that America has endured because "we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents."

In any book of this kind, the question arises of just how much of the speech was actually written by the president and how much was written by others. Presidents all the way back to Washington have recognized the importance of their speeches and have consulted friends, officials and professional writers for help. Although the president may not have written all the words in a speech, only he is in a position to make the final decision about which words to use and to deliver them with the passion and conviction necessary for them to have the greatest effect.

Bruce Reed, writing in the online magazine Slate, captured the essence of any speechwriter's contribution. "A speechwriter's job is to write words that others can stand to claim as their own. Most speechwriters soon learn the basic pleasure-pain principle of the craft: Satisfaction comes from finding words the boss can use, but taking credit for those words can only embarrass the very person you're supposed to be helping. At times, it can feel slightly disingenuous to write words for someone else to deliver. But more often, the person you're writing for gives a far better speech than you wrote ... the whole point of the job is that in the end, the words are all that matter."

In short, the speeches are important only because the president gives them and the words are important only because they outline his policy. Robert Schlesinger, in his book White House Ghosts, points out that speechwriters select words and images that flow naturally from the energy and rhetoric of the campaign, the candidate and the administration itself. No speechwriter, however gifted, can put words in the president's mouth. Speechwriters can use words only to give shape and structure to ideas that already characterize the president and are believable in the context of his policies. The working relationship among the president, the speechwriters and the English language is captured in Sorenson's comments on the origin of the words "ask not" in Kennedy's Inaugural Address. "It isn't all that important who wrote whic

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