Crisis Speeches Delivered During World War II: A Historical and Rhetorical Perspective
Date of Degree
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study examines speeches by English Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman during World War II.
Rhetorical analyses of speeches made by United States presidents and world leaders abound, particularly studies about addresses to nations in times of crisis. These are important because what presidents say amidst uncertainty and chaos defines their leadership in the eyes of the public. But with new forms of crisis rhetoric, our understanding of presidential responses has evolved, and their speeches can be reinterpreted in categories that offer new insights. This study examines speeches by English Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman during World War II. The study evolved from a 2004 analysis by Flora Anne Jackson, who examined a selection of pre-and post-Cold War presidential speeches. In her study, Jackson found that the rhetoric used could be categorized according to those discourses containing elements of epideictic, deliberative, and forensic ingredients. Jackson used these criteria to determine whether these speeches meet the expectations for what constitutes the genre of international crisis rhetoric. In this study, I use Jackson's method of content analysis to test three addresses delivered by two United States Presidents and one English leader during times of international crisis to find if they qualify as a genre under the proposed method. The speeches include Winston Churchill's "This Was Their Finest Hour" delivered on May 10, 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech "A Day of Infamy" delivered on December 7, 1941, and two of Harry S. Truman's speeches, his first address to Congress upon taking office after Roosevelt's death delivered on April 16,1945, and his statement on dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima delivered on August 6, 1945. A thorough literature review, an analysis, and qualified conclusions are provided.
Ramos, Tomas E., "Crisis Speeches Delivered During World War II: A Historical and Rhetorical Perspective" (2010). Theses & Dissertations. 228.