The President's Speech: The Stories behind the Most Memorable Presidential Addresses

The President's Speech: The Stories behind the Most Memorable Presidential Addresses

by C. Edwin Vilade


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762779819
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/16/2012
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 936,939
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

C. Edwin Vilade is an author, speechwriter and communications consultant who has written for two US presidents, two vice presidents, numerous Cabinet officials, heads of multinational corporations and other public figures.

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Lincoln second inaugural draft #1 WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE As Abraham Lincoln stood to speak at his second inauguration, the daylong deluge of rain had stopped, and the sun for the first time broke through the clouds. Many in the soggy and mud-daubed crowd of 35,000 took this as an almost biblical omen that the storms of the past four years were nearing an end. The gaunt and weary giant on the platform had recently been re-elected President by an overwhelming majority as the Confederacy began to crumble. The dome of the U.S. Capitol building, half-completed at Lincoln's first inaugural, was now complete -- symbolic, perhaps, of the fact that the Union stood intact. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's former Secretary of the Treasury, administered the oath of office. The radical Republican Chase was a complete change from his pro-slavery predecessor, Roger B. Taney, who had died the year before. Soldiers lined the streets of the Capital and snipers knelt on rooftops. They were needed, because the disgruntled and nearly defeated South was still dangerous. Several of the conspirators in the coming assassination stood silent in the crowd. John Wilkes Booth was positioned only 10 yards away from Lincoln -- behind and above him. The day began inauspiciously. Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson had been ill with typhoid fever and had wanted to stay at home in Tennessee to recover. Lincoln, fearful for his safety in a state recently recaptured from the Confederates, insisted he come to Washington. The still-ailing Johnson made the trip. He medicated himself with whiskey the night before and again in the morning. At his oath-taking in the Senate Chamber, he delivered a long, barely coherent speech that embarrassed the Republicans in attendance. Lincoln Retained Faith in Johnson After Johnson took the oath, Lincoln ordered the marshals not to let him speak outside at the Presidential inaugural. But he retained faith in Johnson. When associates expressed alarm about what would befall the country if anything happened to him and Johnson replaced him, Lincoln replied, "I have known Andy for many years. He made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared. Andy ain't a drunkard." The next fateful few weeks would test the soundness of Lincoln's judgment, as the war ended, and so did Lincoln's life. Johnson's reputation has been forever overshadowed by events such as his inaugural behavior and his eventual impeachment and acquittal. However, he was nowhere as bad as his enemies portrayed him. In fact history judges that he did a creditable job of preserving the recently restored Union in the face of unrest stirred up by both vengeful radical Republicans and the unrepentant Southerners. Nothing of the tragedy and upheaval to come was known on that March day, however. Nor did anyone in the crowd have any inkling what Lincoln was to say. Four years as Chief Executive under the most trying conditions had crystallized his thoughts and beliefs. This time, he sought no advice from Seward or any other associates in drafting his remarks, as he had at his first inauguration. It is known that, as was his custom, he spent long hours in shaping his thoughts into his customary unforgettable phrases, but he left no preliminary drafts to trace their development. More than one visitor to the White House in the months before the inauguration saw him working on what he said were remarks for the event, but Lincoln never shared them. The closest thing to a preliminary statement of the thoughts that went into the inaugural address was an 1862 musing he headed "Meditation on the Divine Will." Lincoln never made it public. It was found in his papers after his death, and lays out several of the beliefs articulated in the address, such as the assertion that the prayers of both sides could not be answered, and that neither had been answered fully. Letter Contained Basis for Speech Points A public letter to Kentucky newspaper editor Albert G. Hodges in 1864 contains other passages that were adapted for the speech. For example, he wrote to Hodges that, "If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God." Compare that with the more poetic but similar lines of the inaugural speech, "...He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?" Lincoln's ability to distill profound thoughts into few words was unparalleled -- as witness the 271-word Gettysburg Address. This second inaugural speech consisted of just 703 words, the second shortest in history. The shortest was George Washington's second inaugural, which was a simple statement of thanks, and was delivered before the tradition of a formal address came about with Jefferson's second term. Lincoln's was about half the length of the two inaugural addresses considered anywhere near as good: Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. It was no accident that Kennedy directed his speechwriter to study both Lincoln's and Roosevelt's addresses in preparing his own.No Attempt at Rhetorical Flourishes Lincoln began his oration plainly, with no attempt at rhetorical flourish. He noted that it was his second appearance to take the oath as President -- significant in that his audience well knew that he was the first President to be re-elected in 36 years, since Andrew Jackson. There was little he could tell them about important events that they did not already know -- including the fact that the "progress of our arms, upon which all else depends," is "reasonably satisfactory and encouraging." Although he undoubtedly knew the end was just a matter of time, he was careful to note that "no prediction is ventured." The passive voice he used in that phrase would be a deplorable lapse for most good orators -- active voice and action verbs are two of the hallmarks of good public speaking. However, with Lincoln, it only serves to point up a major feature of his greatest speeches: the lack of personal references. He used the pronoun "I" only once in the speech. He speaks more frequently of "we" or "both", a remarkable construct for a speech given during wartime, when "we" and "they" would be more expected. Lincoln's language is inclusive, rather than exclusive. Another very interesting feature of the speech was its religious cast. Lincoln was frequently criticized for being insufficiently devout, because he did not regularly attend services, even though his friends defended his beliefs. However, the war seemed to deepen his piety, and after his matter-of-fact beginning, the remainder of the speech was packed with biblical references. In a four-paragraph address, he mentions' God 14 times, quotes the bible four times and invokes prayer three times, notes Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White Jr. In the second paragraph comes the first of his memorable quotes, "Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."And the War Came The real surprise of this simple and powerful quote is its conclusion, "...and the war came." Not we, or they, started the war -- his language suggests that the parties involved had no ability to start, or stop, the war -- it came as if inevitably. The simplicity of the conclusion gave it a stark power. The second paragraph leads him to the long and eloquent third. He pinpoints the real cause of the war, and moves his oratorical abilities and the biblical and religious orientation of the speech into a higher gear. His first inaugural speech had been focused on making a lawyerly case for saving the Union, but in this powerful paragraph he intimates that both the North and the South, despite their claims on the one side about the indissolubility of the Union and on the other about the primacy of states' rights, knew that somehow it was all about slavery. These slaves constituted "a peculiar and powerful interest," he says. One side sought to expand this interest at the cost of the Union, and the other simply to restrict it, he says. Neither anticipated the extent or duration of the conflict, or "...anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease." This is a long way forward from the conciliatory tone toward slavery he adopted in attempting to dissuade the South from secession, but still notable for its inclusiveness and lack of bitterness. He observes that both read from the same Bible and invoke the same God. Let Us Judge Not Two biblical references, one from the description of the Fall of Man in Genesis and the other the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, combine for a powerful combination of condemnation of and magnanimity toward the rebels: "It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged." He then builds up the almost sermonic tone of the speech. Slavery came about, and "this terrible war" came in its appointed time to end it. God has His own purposes, he says, and they cannot be known by humankind. He then reiterates in the strongest possible terms his determination to see it through to the end. "Fondly and fervently" we wish for a speedy end to the war. "Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'" The last two paragraphs of the speech are among the most powerful and lyrical ever uttered by any President -- or any other public speaker, American or otherwise. He thundered in the third paragraph like an Old Testament prophet, and then shifted abruptly to forgiveness and generosity. With Malice Toward None "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." In four short paragraphs, Lincoln, who had kept so much inside himself throughout the four years of war, revealed his deepest feelings about slavery, and about his hopes for the future of the country. The words were again inclusive. He refers to "him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and for his orphan", by implication including the soldiers and citizens of the defeated side. That paragraph contains, perhaps, the seed of his strategies and policies for the period after the war, to "bind up the nation's wounds." There can be no argument to the judgment that, had he lived and been able to turn his words into actions, the history of the United States would be considerably different, and that the nation might have avoided some of the troubles that resulted from the actions and inaction of lesser men in the Reconstruction period. The words of the Second Inaugural are engraved on the Lincoln Memorial, along with those of the Gettysburg Address. The monument and the marble are impressive, but the words are more so. Roosevelt Four Freedoms draft #1 'FOUR FREEDOMS' SPEECH STEELED NATION FOR WAR TO COME By the start of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's third term, he had presented a number of messages to Congress. On January 6, 1941, he gave one of the most powerful and effective such addresses in the country's history. It was a speech that not only prepared the country for war, but which has entered history as the articulation of the "Four Freedoms" that are basic to all citizens of the world. Throughout the 1930s Roosevelt, preoccupied with the domestic economy, had acquiesced to the strong isolationist sentiments in the U.S. He supported a number of neutrality measures in the Congress as the saber-rattling grew louder in Germany, Japan and Italy. During his campaign for an unprecedented third term in 1940, he and opponent Wendell Willkie both pledged to keep American troops out of "foreign wars." Roosevelt won by his narrowest margin, although it was still a comfortable win. He drew the support of those who favored strong measures against Hitler, while isolationists generally favored Willkie. By Election Day, the war in Europe was more than a year old and Roosevelt knew that the U.S. would have to enter it, sooner or later. Exercising his customary leadership and guile, he nudged a reluctant nation toward preparedness. He beefed up and modernized the armed forces and dramatically increased manufacture of armaments, on the very valid grounds that they could well be needed to defend the country against eventual invasion.Roosevelt Persuades Congress to OK Arms Sales After the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Roosevelt prevailed upon the Congress to revise the Neutrality Act to permit the U.S. to sell arms to countries at war -- chiefly Britain and France before it was overrun -- on a "cash and carry" basis. After France's fall, the U.S. stepped up arms sales to Britain, until in November 1940 a desperate Winston Churchill wrote him that Britain was running out of money to pay for arms shipments. Congress would not support a loan to Britain. The solution reportedly came to Roosevelt while he was on a cruise, in what Labor Secretary Frances Perkins called "a flash of almost clairvoyant knowledge and understanding." The U.S. would not sell arms to Britain, it would lend them. Roosevelt dubbed the program "lend-lease" and set about selling it to the press and public. He first broached the topic at a press conference on December 17, 1940, using what long-time aide Samuel Rosenman called "his talent for homely simile." If I have a garden hose, Roosevelt said, and my neighbor's house catches fire, I don't ask him to pay for its use in advance. I let him use it and he returns it afterward. We'll lend our neighbors (Britain) the materiel to meet the threat of Hitler, and get it back afterwards. Arch-isolationist Sen. Robert Taft said lending ships, planes and other weaponry would be like lending chewing gum, and "you don't want it back afterwards." But Roosevelt's arguments proved more persuasive. Later in the month, he further advanced the issue in one of his famous fireside chats, adopting a phrase coined by French diplomat Jean Monnet. America must be "the great arsenal of democracy," Monnet told him, trying, successfully, to persuade Roosevelt to further increase arms production.Laying out the Case for Lend-Lease Roosevelt prepared to lay out the entire case for lend-lease to the Congress in his Annual Message to Congress -- what we know now as a State of the Union Address. The team assembled to prepare the speech consisted of Rosenman, Harry Hopkins and Robert Sherwood. Rosenman had been with Roosevelt since his gubernatorial campaign in 1928. Hopkins had succeeded Louis Howe as Roosevelt's closest aide after Howe's death in 1936. He carried out a variety of diplomatic assignments, including a detailed assessment of British determination and resolve to continue the war. His assessment led Roosevelt to an even deeper commitment to keep Britain afloat. Sherwood, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, was a recent addition. A glamorous name, he was courted by the President to join the team. A liberal, and an advocate of U.S. entry into the war, Sherwood eagerly accepted. Some combination of Sherwood, Hopkins and Rosenman would produce just about every major speech Roosevelt gave for the rest of his life. In his book, "Working with Roosevelt," Rosenman has described a chaotic but effective working process, with the speechwriters assembling in the White House Cabinet Room after regular working hours to "put together" the speeches. The President frequently poured cocktails and the group had dinner, working all the while. They cut and pasted, hand-wrote on drafts and swapped ideas. The President went to bed around 11 p.m., The speechwriters kept working, fueled by whiskey for Sherwood, black coffee for Hopkins and coke for Rosenman, until they had produced a draft suitable for ta night crew stenographers to type up, ready for the President when he arose.Facing an Unprecedented Threat Such was the process they followed with the Four Freedoms speech. They started with "a very good draft" sent over from the State Department. It was written by Adolph Berle, who frequently contributed to foreign-policy addresses. The initial draft referenced the threats from Europe that led to the Monroe Doctrine, which had been largely successful in protecting hemispheric interests from European threats until World War I. Even that conflict, which drew the U.S. into battle on foreign soil, did not compare with the threat posed by dictators such as Hitler who sought to conquer the world. The Monroe Doctrine references did not survive through the final draft, but the "unprecedented nature" of the threat became the core of an extended recitation by Roosevelt about the danger to the U.S. and the need for response. In fact, he uses the word "unprecedented" twice in the first paragraph of the delivered version. The White House trio of speechwriters took that draft apart and put it back together, with considerable help from Roosevelt. "The President himself dictated five pages, and worked on it very hard through the [seven] drafts," recalls Rosenman, "filling each of them with his handwritten corrections and insertions." The President takes considerable time and effort to lay out the nature and extent of the threat in the strongest terms, dismissing isolationist arguments about the invulnerability of the U.S. to foreign invasion. The invasion will not be direct, he warns, in part because of the power of the British fleet in the Atlantic. That, by implication, is another argument for lend-lease. The first phase of the invasion will be sneaky and accomplished by "secret agents and their dupes" who might already be at work, he says, in the U.S. and throughout Latin America. He also slams isolationists and other appeasers who undermine U.S. security by seeking to do business with Hitler. Sherwood wrote the sentence slamming them as a "small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests." The speechwriters believed that this phrase would be the immortal one to come from the speech, but it passed unnoticed.'Dorothy, Take a Law' What did become immortal, and what elevated the speech above its beginnings as a cry of alarm, was the section dictated by Roosevelt himself. He laid out ambitious and visionary aims for the U.S. as a protector of rights -- the Four Freedoms -- around the world. Toward the end of the fourth draft, Rosenman recounts, the President announced that he had an idea for the peroration, which is defined as the powerful ending of a speech in in which ideas are summed up and the audience is exhorted to take action. Secretary Dorothy Brady was taking dictation that night, and he leaned forward in his chair and said, "Dorothy, take a law." He then dictated the four freedoms passages, which survived into the speech almost exactly as he pronounced them, according to Rosenman: "In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms," Roosevelt dictated. "The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world. "The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world. "The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world." "That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions -- without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society. "This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. "To that high concept there can be no end save victory." Hopkins was concerned that the phrase "everywhere in the world" covered a lot of territory, adding "I don't know how interested Americans are going to be in the people of Java." "I'm afraid they'll have to be some day, Harry," replied Roosevelt. "The world is getting so small that even the people in Java are getting to be our neighbors now." Roosevelt was prescient. Within a year after his Four Freedoms speech, Java -- the most populous island of Indonesia -- was well known to American military strategists as the Japanese sought to dominate that part of the world. Japan, along with Germany and Italy, gave millions of American young men a close-up geography lesson and the entire country became acquainted with place names they had never heard of but would always remember, from Omaha Beach to Montecassino to Guadalcanal. Roosevelt also took care in the message to point out to his audience what they were fighting for, in outlining the objectives of a democracy -- essentially a restatement of the objectives of the New Deal. It served to give "our fighting men and those who produced behind the lines...additional stamina and courage from the very knowledge that they were defending that way of life," points out Rosenman.Enumerating the Qualities of Democracy Equality of opportunity, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privilege for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all and "the enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living....," were the democratic qualities he enumerated. The speech was immediately effective. Lend-lease passed the following month, and Harry Hopkins was put in charge of it. It sustained the British for the rest of the year until the U.S. entry into the war following Pearl Harbor. It also led to even further vital progress in U.S. military preparedness. The Four Freedoms became a key element of Allied war propaganda, illustrated by a famous series of paintings by Normal Rockwell. that were widely reproduced as posters. The goals of the Four Freedoms represented the basis of the Atlantic Charter signed by Roosevelt and Churchill in 1941. Later, in 1948, they were the foundation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Six decades later, President George W. Bush's speechwriters drew on the Four Freedoms in framing his remarks to the Congress following the September 11 attacks. Like so many others of Roosevelt's words the Four Freedoms have entered history as among the most memorable and effective ever uttered by an American President.

Table of Contents

PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES TABLE OF CONTENTS George Washington – Farewell Address (including drafts by James Madison), 1796 Thomas Jefferson – First Inaugural Address, 1801 James Monroe – Seventh Address to the Congress on the State of the Union (containing his statement of the Monroe Doctrine) 1823 John Quincy Adams – (Post-Presidential) Supreme Court argument in defense of slaves accused of mutiny aboard the slave ship Amistad, 1841. Abraham Lincoln – First Inaugural Address (Including language proposed by William Seward), 1861. Abraham Lincoln – Second Inaugural Address, 1865. Theodore Roosevelt – The Man with the Muck Rake, 1906 Woodrow Wilson – War Message to Congress (The World Must be Made Safe for Democracy), 1917. Woodrow Wilson – The 14 Points (Plans for a post-war world, principally authored by the later-distinguished commentator Walter Lippmann), 1918. Calvin Coolidge -- The Press Under a Free Government (drafted by the first Presidential speechwriter, Judson Welliver), 1925. Franklin D. Roosevelt – First Inaugural Address, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt – The Four Freedoms, 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt -- Address to Congress after bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Harry S. Truman – The Truman Doctrine, Address to Congress 1947. Dwight D. Eisenhower – Farewell Address (Military-Industrial Complex Speech), 1961, John F. Kennedy – Inaugural Address (Ask Not….), 1960. John F. Kennedy –Rice University Address (We Choose to Go to the Moon), 1962. Lyndon B. Johnson – The American Promise, 1965. Richard Nixon – "Silent Majority" speech, 1969 Jimmy Carter – "Crisis of Confidence" speech, 1979. Ronald Reagan – Speech at the Brandenburg Gate (Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall), 1987. Ronald Reagan – 40th Anniversary of D-Day speech (The Boys of Pointe du Hoc), 1984. George H.W. Bush – Inaugural Speech (Thousand Points of Light), 1989. Bill Clinton – "I Have Sinned speech (handwritten by Clinton), 1998. George W. Bush – State of the Union speech, 2002 (Axis of Evil speech), 2002.

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