Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Presidential Speeches: An Assignment

This week's speech topic was to pick a presidential speech and write about why we liked it.  I know I am going to go into class this afternoon and hear a lot about Kennedy, Reagan,Clinton, and Obama.  Those are the go-to guys for students, it seems.  In my never ending search to be different and my odd fascination for all things old time-y wime-y I decided to go a different direction.



On May 8th 1945 President Harry Truman announced to the nation that Germany had surrendered to the ally forces.  Victory over Japan was still 4 months away, but at least it could be said that on that day the end was beginning to come into focus.  Truman was never regarded as the best public speaker, especially not for prepared speeches.  He was at his best when he threw aside his paper and spoke off the cuff.
                His address on Germany is not a great example of his better executed speeches.  His speech is hard and oddly paced.  In the video he’s stiff and his eyes are often on his paper except for the brief moments he would look straight into the camera through coke bottle lenses held by a frame style I swear my great-grandmother had.  Luckily for him televisions were not widespread like they are now.  My father recalls not having a tv until the mid-1950’s.  My Grandmother’s uncle was the only immediate family member that owned one in the 40’s and that boasted a very lovely 6” screen.   Over the radio his address would still be considered stiff, but not terribly unusual for many radio speakers.
                If his form was so mediocre and his voice was stiff why did I pick this speech?  Despite his delivery there is a genuine sense of relief and pride in the American people present.  You can see the man who stepped into FDR’s shoes and had since held the weight of a fighting world on his shoulders and saw in his eyes how heavy that burden really was.  His words are powerful and precise, holding the allied forces in the high esteem that was shared by so many.
                There was one quote that cemented my decision to choose this as my topic.  One minute in, Truman looks right into the camera and says, “United, the peace loving nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger, by far, than the might of dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak.”  Out of the entire one minute thirty one second video that was the line that summarized it all perfectly.  It captured the spirit of the war and the flame that burned in so many of our grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s hearts to support, if not fight in the war.

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