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Rhetorical Analysis The Four Freedoms - Essay Example

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The United States was officially neutral in World War II. Initially, this speech highlights the finer aspects against the American neutrality in the War. The speech hints at the two dimension of freedom:…
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Essay Topic: Rhetorical Analysis "The Four Freedoms" The speech was delivered by Franklin D Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. The United States was officially neutral in World War II. Initially, this speech highlights the finer aspects against the American neutrality in the War. The speech hints at the two dimension of freedom: “freedom to” versus “freedom from.” Scholars have interpreted “freedom from…” as negative liberty and “freedom to…” as positive liberty.
The context is of utmost importance in any address, which too for a top politician, and Roosevelt exploited it well. He wanted to win the confidence of his people for a policy change for active participation of America in World War II. Therefore, he began his address on a note of warning to the Americans, with the assertion that the nation’s international position was “unprecedented”(2) and raised apprehensions about the security of America by stating that “at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.”(2) What was that threat? He did not specify and he was just trying to create deep anxiety for his audiences. By stating next, that past leaders of America did not aim “at domination of the whole world,” (7) he was making it clear about the new role of America in the world scenario of politics and the duties and responsibilities involved in it.
To highlight the necessity of participation in World War II, he chose to belittle the importance of the previous wars and said they were not “a real threat against our future or against the future of any other American nation.”(12) Quickly, he had built up the suspense rhetoric well which created some apprehensions like who was the enemy precisely? What were the intentions of the enemy so-projected? What threat he constituted? At the sixth minute of his speech, the President was more vocal about describing the enemy. He specified the enemy as “the new order of tyranny” (11) who had the hidden agenda and “that seeks to spread over every continent today.”(11) He said “every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world–assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.”(12) This observation was highly important. He regaled his audience and warned them that the enemy was treacherous on every count. The President was referring to the enemy dictators and their armies, the Communist countries in particular. With this clear-cut rhetoric, he was drawing the dividing line that the Axis powers planned to attack United States. He tried to create the grim picture of the scenario by stating that the enemy deployment in the form of secret agents had already begun and he made the strong assertion that the “great numbers of them are already here.”(25) He tried to ring the alarm bells by stating that the enemy could start the war without provocation on the part of America and he tendered the evidence from history, by stating that such nations, “did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands to commit an act of war" (57). By creating the fear of strike by the enemy through his rhetoric, Roosevelt succeeded in forging the psychological unity amongst the people of America, irrespective of party affiliations. He projected such powers as the permanent enemies of America. Though initially he was soft, later he created the grim picture about the intentions of the enemy and the threat that he posed to all the democratic countries. He mentioned, “What the downfall of democratic nations” would “mean to our own democracy.”(10) He mentioned the words like “Freedom,” “Nation” quite often and argued later that “American Republics is today in serious danger.”(27)In the end Roosevelt succeeded in creating a picture of serious threat to democracy at the hands of the cunning and immoral enemy. That was what the President expected his people to believe; and people believed him at that time.


Works Cited
Roosevelt, Franklin D. FDR, “The Four Freedoms.” Speech Text, State of the Union Address, 6
January 1941
Accessed on
December 1, 2012 Read More
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