Research article
Issue: № 2 (2), 2015


The paper presents the political, socio-psychological, linguistic and rhetorical portrait of F.D. Roosevelt as a speaker.

A new epoch hasn’t interrupted the creative role of public speaking. The unique experience of the outstanding political leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt remained in the memory of the peoples, it is truly inestimable and can be creatively used for constructive purposes in the current context for making benefit of the peoples.

What exactly from the experience of this great ancestor can we keep in our minds?

A hard work is known to be the basis for achieving the highest professionalism in any field. That particular factor served to Roosevelt in his gaining the influence power on the minds and hearts of millions.

He had painstakingly accumulated the experience in the management of a huge country, its socio-economic, scientific, technical and spiritual development. Hence the main thing was the fact that at any time with any audience he had the opportunity to say what was necessary to say and what the audience expected him to say.

His natural abilities played a significant role in the formation of a speaker, his unique and constantly evolving memory in particular. It allowed to enrich and capture in brain the capacious content of his speech, carry it out in front of the audience like a just made improvisation, producing a huge impression on those who listened to him.

A magic beauty of the art of influence of his words was caused by the fact that many people thought him to be the finest psychologist, social psychologist "with a God-given talent". He spoke about the most crucial problems of the millions of ordinary Americans, appealing to their highest spiritual qualities, aiming their will to negotiate the severe economic crisis and achieve victory over worst enemy, being a part of the allied coalition.

Roosevelt had clear idea about the psychology of political elite, officials, oligarchs, workers, farmers, soldiers, intellectuals.

The content of his speeches and conversations have always been inextricably linked to the specific life problems. Roosevelt and his true passion words took away the breath of millions of his compatriots when he said that everyone should have the right to work as he can, to own property, to live within his means and to have a government that protects his interests.

The strong point of Roosevelt’s speeches and interviews was their high political, philosophical, logical culture. He skillfully used the arsenal of political, economic and other arguments for the main ideas of each performance.

The contents of each his speech was always carefully considered. Thoughts were outlined intelligibly, consistently and convincingly. A strictly logical expression was supplemented by the socio-psychological and lingvo-rhetorical components, increasing the emotionality, passion of his speeches.

Roosevelt’s speeches were not only convincing, but also inspiring; he used verbal and nonverbal means of influence, made some of his speeches similar to religious sermons by the content and psycho-stylistic tonality.

Roosevelt had the gift not only to suggest to the interlocutor the confidence of his idea, but also a great confidence in him, as a person. His contemporaries proved that Roosevelt, using his psychological abilities could encourage those who were unconfident, and had no will to solve the problems. Roosevelt himself projected confidence, energy and fortitude during his speech. Those who listened to him got down to work resolutely, having the faith in success. The basic idea of Roosevelt's suggestion was to sensitize a man to a strong action which seemed to be unbearable before the meeting with the president.

Roosevelt had a talent of communication with mass audience, groups of people, and individuals. He spoke tactfully, kindly and availably. According to his contemporaries sometimes he was acrid when it came to serious neglects at work without a valid excuse.

It must be emphasized that he explained concisely, clearly, passionately during his speeches. Each sentence carried a strong call to action. His words were particularly impressive they expressed the thoughts and hopes of people ordinary everyday life. His speeches reacted in a lively response in the minds and hearts of all who listened to his voice.

Roosevelt's living word had a magical power because it was constantly and organically linked with his daily activities, with the work of his colleagues.

Roosevelt was a successful speaker due to a painstaking preparation of his speeches. Roosevelt himself and his councilors worked on every important argument in favor of the main idea of the speech. It was a precise work to select of the most effective logical, psychological and rhetorical means impact on the audience. They also carried out the careful training for speech presentation, as a rule.

The language, Roosevelt’s word, lexical-phraseological richness, diversity of the means of the speech syntactic organization, massive opportunities of emotional impact of rhetorical universals were the main means for control of minds and feelings of the audience. Roosevelt skillfully used tropes and that gave the art style to his speeches, the ability of exclusively strong influence on the emotional sphere of the man. The orator pictured the words in many cases, using precise, prominent definitions, imaginative metaphors and similes, opposition, epigrammatic expressions elements of humor and satire.

Roosevelt was perfect in speech sounding. He spoke loudly, emphatically, his voice was powerful. The skillful use of intonations focused the audience on the key aspects of the speech.

Roosevelt-speaker made economical but expressive gestures and pantomime, deliberation of poses, rare plastic gestures, he was always constructive and relevant. Roosevelt didn’t move much, he was rather static. All the sense and emotionally expressive load was inside his words.

Roosevelt’s charm was imperious and irresistible. Because of the illness he was deprived of a number of additional means of influence, but he managed to convince his listeners with the purposeful, impressive, meaningful and resounding words. In order to emphasize the logically valuable words he not only strengthened or changed his voice in the speech, but often used also the steady rhythm, sustained by pronunciation. Roosevelt was inimitable in the art of the sound implementation of his speeches and interviews. It is true to say that he was a true wizard of living word.

The especially realistic show of reality was the constant companion of his speeches.

There was a notable feature in the Roosevelt’s oratorical style: facts and events, which were spoken about were represented to the listeners in all their palpability and drama increasing the impact of his words on the audience imagination. However, his speech were natural, simple and varied in the verbal expression while being totally non-pretentiousness and non-affected.

Roosevelt fully used the advantage of the rich intonation opportunities of his voice, baritone.

The modern speakers should pay special attention to the fact that language style of his speeches and conversations were highly clear for most of the population of the United States of America of the thirties and forties. Roosevelt did not admitted the abuse of a complex, little-known to majority the financial, economic, scientific, technical and other terms.

Many of the Roosevelt’s speeches were story-like by the form and construction simplifying the understanding of the majority of the audience.

Few Roosevelt’s speeches had a sublime presentation style. Such style was used in the disrupted speeches devoted to the problems of fateful importance for the life of the country, its history, its development, etc. In general, the grandiloquence seldom was in his speeches.

There was a unique tradition of reliance on the country's history in Roosevelt’s oratorical practice. He constantly felt the look of his great forerunners – the fathers of the nation: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and other prominent figures of the United States. Roosevelt’s powerful oratory impact on his compatriots was caused by the fact that no matter what was his audience the devotion of this extraordinary man to his country and people was obvious.

Already in the forties USA had a fantastic military-industrial potential. Its operation required the special attention of the President and a Commander in Chief. The leadership of the huge country with a great economic potential, military complex and complicated social structure in the era of great home and international shocks required daily mental and physical tension; that depleted the strength of Roosevelt.

As a person Roosevelt was characterized by determination and perseverance, a high sense of duty, a belief in the creative man’s destiny, the commitment to humanistic traditions, loyalty and generosity, compassion for the poor, love for his country.

Roosevelt being a charismatic politician, strategist and experienced pragmatist, was always ready to make the necessary adjustments to any ideas and methods of solving socio-economic, military, political and other tasks without deviating far from his intended course on the chosen target, he managed to pass the state ship through the storms of the Great Depression and conflicts of the Second World War. The history made its verdict on his person, recognizing him to have the highest status of the policy-strategy of national and international rank, the status of the greatest political orator, constantly evolving the idea of development of the closer alliance of the US with a Great Russia in the interests of world peace forever in his numerous speeches.

Roosevelt’s oral presentations in those difficult times were an effective tool for promotion of his socio-economic ideas and policies. The speeches and interviews had a powerful impact on the work of all major intellectual institutions in the country: print press, radio, cinema, visual arts, and others. They willingly and unwillingly became a kind of voice for public speaking of the leaders of state, party, and trade unions, scientists, educators, representatives of various democratic organizations, religious leaders, etc.

Roosevelt's speech had a definite impact on the same institutions of other countries. One could state that as a political leader, Roosevelt was the most effective preacher of his ideas, plans, programs and strategies of economic and political nature.

The living word of authoritative political leader played a huge role in forming of a focused national and international public opinion.

Roosevelt’s speeches-preachments proclaimed the equal dignity of individuals and their social responsibility being a compelling and effective means of democratic and unorthodox leadership in the United States.

His public appearances played a significant forming role of a democratic culture of a "New Deal" in his mass support in development of the interest policy and democratic accountability.

Roosevelt had many opponents. They often made an accusation at his address accusing him in turning the political activity of the United States in the "one-man show". The most of his contemporaries believed that Roosevelt "has given a new impulse to the democratic governance", the origins of which went back to the works of "founding fathers".

The glory of the outstanding political speaker was assigned to Roosevelt largely due to his public speeches on the problems of war and peace. These speeches of his played a crucial constructive role at that time. They engaged the attention of people on all continents.

Being a far-sighted politician, Roosevelt showed the unremitting attention to the destiny of the future world order. He paid the look of his contemporaries on the ways which could provide long-lasting and fair peace in the world.

In a speech in January 1945 in the Congress, Roosevelt had emphasized the need to avoid the abuse of force as a deterrent in the world.

Roosevelt said that the power must be connected to responsibility and serve to protect the common good, only this can justify its use.

Speaking about "peace for the people", he meant the world based on independence and self-determination of peoples.

He assigned a critical role in the ongoing processes to the United Nations. According to Roosevelt only they could "have a right to quick and decisive actions to maintain peace, if necessary – by force".

After he returned from the Crimea (Yalta) Conference, Roosevelt, speaking to a joint session of Congress, March 1, 1945, emphasized:

"The world we are building cannot be American or British, Russian, French or Chinese world. It cannot be the world of big or small states. It must be a world based on the joint efforts of all the countries...". The President said that it should come "the end of the system of arbitrary acts, closed unions, spheres of influence, the balance of powers and all of these and similar methods that have been used for centuries and always with no success" [1, p.110].

Roosevelt expressed the hope that the post-war world will be led by the United Nations. Unfortunately, the world described by him, was not good to all in the USA and outside of it. Several years passed and a long and exhausting confrontation of two opposite systems had started.

There was a sign of F.D. Roosevelt in the "Communiqué of the Crimean Conference of the leaders of the three allied powers - the USSR, the USA and the UK" on February 13, 1945, along with the signatures of Winston Churchill and Stalin.

Section IX of Communique "Unity in the organization of the world, as well as in the conducting of war," says:

"Our meeting in the Crimea has confirmed our common determination to maintain and strengthen that unity of targets and actions that made the victory possible and certain for the United Nations in the modern warfare in a peaceful period. We believe that this is a sacred obligation of our governments to our peoples and the peoples of the world.

Only the continuing and growing cooperation and understanding between our three countries and all the peace-loving peoples the higher aspiration of humanity can implement the durable and lasting peace, which should, as the Atlantic Charter says "provide such a situation when all the people in all countries could live their entire lives without knowing neither fear nor need”.

Victory in this war and the formation of the proposed international organization will provide the greatest opportunity in the history of mankind to create the most important conditions of the peace in the coming years." [4. 311]

I'd like to hope that someday this "strong and lasting peace." will be restored in the world.

Many other features of Roosevelt's speeches also supplemented the basis of their success, including not only the content, but also the style of proclamation.

Unchanging sympathy of the millions and millions of listeners were based on the boundless confidence in him as a president, a reliable person, protecting the needs of "small men". Roosevelt used their respect and love for the implementation of proposed plans and programs. His policies reflected their interests, hopes and aspirations. Psychological structuring of the overwhelming majority of listeners contributed the complete perception of his political activities.

Roosevelt nearly always managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the audience to catch their spirit and send them to the right, creative way. The success of this manner was based largely on the fact that he always had in mind the orientation of the entire mass of listeners. Measures to improve the situation in that particular area of life proposed by speaker found the support of millions.

The opening words of the most of Roosevelt’s speeches were warm and respectful for the audience. All the positive recommendations of the traditional psych-oratory were taken into account. Addressing the audience, he often used uniting words, phrases like "you and I", "us together", etc.

One of the notable features of Roosevelt’s oratorical practice was the fact that at the end of many speeches he pronounced with a bright major key, in spite of all the innumerable difficulties which he spoke about in the middle of the speech. Positive emotional tone of his voice inculcated optimism and confidence in the memory and feelings of the listeners, they were sure that everything outlined will be fulfilled. The ending of his speeches were especially impressive he passionately urged the audience to listen to the precepts of providence.

General stylistic communication manner used by Roosevelt was characterized by the openness, sincerity, honesty. The main feature of his style consisted in the fact that he was able to say meaningfully, sensibly with a living sense, with the inspiration about any issue.

Roosevelt’s oratorical style is a complete harmony of thought and word. This last has always been on the growth of thought. Words spoken by speaker, the content of speech, voice, tone, the set of psycho-rhetorical tools and techniques - everything was thought out to the last detail and weighed up.

He showed moderation arguing with opponents. Roosevelt showed sparkling irony and sarcasm only in the most necessary cases.

The exerted influence of the Roosevelt’s living word was largely determined by the peculiarities of his unique personality, his charisma, high moral character, his lifestyle, a high degree of Reference for surrounding persons. The power of his will noted here, was of course complemented by his high status as a president and a commander in chief. In other words the administrative resource played an important role in this mightiness.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt remained in the memory of Americans and progressive world community as a courageous and honest politician. Together with his compatriots and allies fighting against Nazi Germany and militarist Japan, he created a history and was convinced that the future of humanity will be peaceful and clear for a long time after the victory. His public speaking was great. His great personality created unique examples of the living word powerful influence on the public consciousness of the millions.

And for modern political leaders Roosevelt’s heritage may serve as a source of knowledge of unlimited possibilities of living full-fledged word that can determine the fate of the new generations.

Seven decades have passed since Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away. The world became much different. The communication within the states and in the international arena is now in a lot of ways not like it was in his time. However, just like before the living word remains its leading position. Moreover, it is reinforced by the new scientific and technological achievements; it has got even the more important role. The world practice shows that the living word of political leaders implemented with the new communication means may have a certain effect on the million audiences all over the world.

A public speech in modern conditions more intensively use the latest achievements of sciences, including sociology, general and social psychology, linguistics, ethics and aesthetics, pedagogics, political science, communication theory, and others. At the same time the historical experience of the best speakers of past epochs is still used.

Rational, logical ways, means, methods of exposure gained the increasingly significant weight in the theory and practice of management and international relations. However, tools and techniques of the irrational influence have become more sophisticated; they act on consciousness and subconsciousness of the great number of people through television, Internet and other electronic means of zombification.

The intensive use of electronic communication means stipulated a significant change in requirements and techniques for effective impact on the audience, and to the structure of the public speech. For example, the phenomenon of complexity in the use of various sign systems in public speech, such as linguistic, paralinguistic (intonation, etc.), kinetic (facial expressions, gestures, etc.) has become multifaceted in modern conditions.

Roosevelt's speeches, declaimed 70-80 years ago, and in our time still conquer by the depth of content, business, careful literary-linguistic, rhetorical finishing.

Roosevelt’s speeches, his famous "Fireside chats" [3] even today may be the handbook for those who have dedicated themselves to the political leadership.

Roosevelt had a powerful prognostic vision, imagination, fertile imagination, courage, at the same time a careful mind of a lawyer and diplomat. Roosevelt's idea of a fair harmonious world, expressed in his public speeches, is very timely in beginning of a new millennium.


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