The Spoken Essay: Structure and Persuasion in Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech

FDR's request to Congress to declare war on Japan in retaliation for the attack on America is historic and iconic, as much for the structure of the speech as for the gravity of the attack itself. As a spoken document it rings with authority, defiance, confidence and persuasion thanks to Roosevelt's patrician baritone. But even as text the speech is alive with numerous elements of reader engagement. The repeated use of "deliberately" leaves no question that the attack was not an error or a misguided overreaction. Symmetry and parallel structure are evident as each territory attacked is named in its own individual sentence, as if a great gong were being struck in commiseration and respect. Instances of passive voice compel the reader to ask who the doer of these acts was, and the answer "by Japan" reinforces the identity and the villainy of the doer. This worksheet is also a tool for exploring persuasive speech and of basic essay structure.