Golway (American History/Kean Univ.; Ronald Reagan’s America, 2008, etc.) presents an audio-and-text survey of President Franklin Roosevelt’s key speeches.
Like his similar books on the speeches of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, this book includes a CD of speech excerpts, with the book’s text amplifying and clarifying the events contained in the audio. Each chapter focuses on a particular speech, with the track number provided. In the chapter on Roosevelt’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Golway deftly sketches not only the preceding presidential campaign, but also specific details of the speech itself—for example, that the famous line, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” written by Roosevelt, may have been inspired by a similar phrase from Henry David Thoreau. While listening to the audio, readers will be struck by Roosevelt’s immense oratory skills. In his famous “fireside chats,” the president adopted a down-to-earth, fatherly tone, but when the occasion demanded it, he could thunderously deliver such lines as, “this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” Golway also emphasizes the president’s talent as a speechwriter. His famous speech the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (“a date which will live in infamy”) was comprised of his words alone. And what powerful words they were—immediately after, Congress passed a motion declaring war on Japan with just one vote of dissent. Golway closes with Roosevelt’s final speech to Congress, in March 1945, when the president was thin, frail and exhausted. The context makes the audio of the speech, in which a clearly tired Roosevelt makes lighthearted reference to his leg braces, all the more poignant.
A fine contextualization of Roosevelt’s life and times.