The True Story Behind the Most Important Speech of the 20th Century

“This address was not written by a committee of speechwriters and consultants. It was not crafted from polling data and political objectives.”

Forward with Roosevelt

By Paul Sparrow, Director FDR Library

On the 74th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s historic address to Congress in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor it is important to examine the true meaning of the speech, and how it came to be. It is rare when a presidential speech transcends the political moment to become an iconic statement for the ages. The key phrases of the great orators resonate years, even decades later. “Four score and seven years ago…” “Ask not what your country…” “…tear down this wall.”

FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech is in my opinion the most important speech of the 20th century because it is an extraordinary example of true leadership, vision and clarity. It also represents the tipping point, the actual moment when the United States was transformed from an isolationist nation to a global superpower and leader of the free world. Its message…

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