Monday, April 23, 2007

This day will live in infamy….

I think we all know FDR’s famous speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is a speech that has etched itself into our collective memories. There was a great article in Prologue in 2001 that looks at the drafts of this speech to show us how FDR got to the final product that has become an icon of US history.

FDR decided he was going to ask for a declaration of war and went to write his short message, dictating the first draft to his secretary:
Biographer Nathan Miller recalls: "He inhaled deeply on his cigarette, blew out the smoke, and began dictating in the same calm tone he used to deal with his mail. He enunciated the words incisively and slowly, carefully specifying each punctuation mark and new paragraph. Running little more than five hundred words, the message was dictated without hesitation or second thoughts."

Roosevelt then started editing his message – one of the first changes included adding the term “date that will live in infamy:”
On draft No. 1, Roosevelt changed "a date which will live in world history" to "a date which will live in infamy," providing the speech its most famous phrase and giving birth to the term, "day of infamy," which December 7, 1941, is often called.

Interestingly, FDR has three drafts, but there is almost nothing on draft 2. He must have went back to draft 1 and correct to get to draft 3, rather than going through draft 2.

FDR’s speeches were usually a lengthy process, but not this one:
Rosenman, Sherwood, and Hopkins were usually involved in drafting major speeches, along with others in the government, depending on the subject. Usually, a speech took from three to ten days to prepare, far longer than the December 8 speech. But Rosenman insisted that all the speeches eventually were Roosevelt's. "The speeches as finally delivered were his-and his alone-no matter who the collaborators were. He had gone over every point, every word, time and again. He had studied, reviewed, and read aloud each draft, and had changed it again and again, either in his own handwriting, by dictating inserts, or making deletions. Because of the many hours he spent in its preparation, by the time he delivered a speech he knew it almost by heart.” Rosenman also wrote: "The remarkable thing is that on one of the busiest and most turbulent days of his life, he was able to spend so much time and give so much thought to his speech.

He gave the speech the next day in the House, changing still a few more terms:
The next day, at 12:30 P.M., in the House of Representatives, Roosevelt delivered his six-minute address to a joint session of Congress and a nationwide radio audience. He was interrupted several times by applause and departed only a few times from the wording on the final draft of the speech, which included four minor handwritten changes.

The article also includes some interesting facts about the copies of the speech themselves – where they are and have been (which is interesting to me, an archivist, at least!).

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