Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech Summary

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Words: 824 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 824|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Historical Context
  2. Speech Summary
  3. Rhetorical Strategies
  4. Lasting Impact
  5. Conclusion

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy launched a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This unprovoked attack resulted in the deaths of over 2,400 Americans and the destruction of numerous ships and aircraft. In response to this devastating event, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress the following day, on December 8, 1941. This speech, now known as the "Day of Infamy" speech, marked the United States' entry into World War II and has been remembered as one of the most significant addresses in American history. In this essay, we will provide a comprehensive summary and analysis of Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech, examining its historical context, rhetorical strategies, and lasting impact.

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Historical Context

It is essential to understand the historical context in which Roosevelt delivered his speech. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States had maintained a policy of neutrality in World War II, despite providing support to the Allied powers through programs such as Lend-Lease. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of American foreign policy, compelling the United States to declare war on Japan and enter the global conflict. Roosevelt's speech was a crucial moment in this shift, as he sought to rally the American people and Congress behind the decision to go to war.

Speech Summary

Roosevelt's speech began with the iconic line, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." This opening immediately captured the gravity of the situation and set the tone for the rest of the address. Roosevelt went on to detail the events of the attack and emphasize its treacherous nature, highlighting the loss of American lives and the damage inflicted on the Pacific Fleet.

Following his recounting of the attack, Roosevelt turned his attention to the broader implications for the United States. He asserted that the attack on Pearl Harbor was not just an assault on American territory but an attack on the principles of freedom and democracy that the nation stood for. He declared, "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory." This statement reflected Roosevelt's confidence in the ultimate triumph of the United States and its allies in the face of adversity.

Moreover, Roosevelt used his speech to request that Congress recognize the state of war between the United States and Japan, a request that was met with an overwhelming and near-unanimous vote in favor of war. This decisive response underscored the unity and resolve of the American government and people in the wake of the attack.

Rhetorical Strategies

Roosevelt employed several rhetorical strategies to effectively convey his message and garner support for the war effort. His use of vivid and evocative language, such as "infamy" and "righteous might," served to evoke strong emotional responses from his audience and create a sense of moral outrage and determination. Additionally, his repetition of the phrase "a date which will live in infamy" throughout the speech reinforced the significance of the attack and its enduring impact on the nation.

Furthermore, Roosevelt's address was characterized by a sense of urgency and resolve, as he emphasized the need for swift and decisive action in response to the attack. His portrayal of the United States as a nation unafraid to confront adversity and committed to achieving victory resonated with the American public and instilled a sense of national pride and purpose.

Lasting Impact

Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech had a profound and lasting impact on American history. It galvanized public opinion in support of the war and solidified the nation's commitment to defeating the Axis powers. The speech also marked a turning point in the United States' role in global affairs, as it heralded the country's emergence as a dominant force in international politics.

Moreover, the "Day of Infamy" speech has become enshrined in the collective memory of the American people, serving as a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Its legacy continues to resonate in popular culture and historical scholarship, underscoring its enduring significance in shaping the narrative of World War II and the American experience.

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Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech stands as a testament to the power of rhetoric in shaping public opinion and mobilizing the nation in times of crisis. Through his skillful use of language and rhetorical devices, Roosevelt effectively communicated the gravity of the situation and rallied the American people behind the decision to enter World War II. The speech's enduring impact underscores its status as a defining moment in American history, cementing its place as a milestone in the nation's journey through the tumultuous events of the 20th century.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Speech Summary. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Speech Summary.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Speech Summary. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Speech Summary [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from:
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