Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. Before the onset of the Great Depression, the prices of food fell, industries did not make profits due to foreign competition, and banks had problems. Banks allowed the use of credits, and people could loan money without proper paperwork. Some people ran off with their bank loans, and banks kept losing money. During the Great Depression, the American economy was at its lowest point, and many people were poor, unemployed, and greatly distressed. Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted American citizens to be hopeful about the future, which can be bright, and also to be courageous and positive. In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt evoked hope, confidence, and a sense of community and encouraged his audience by using diction, parallelism, and repetition.
First, Roosevelt used diction to obtain courage and trust from his audience. To begin his speech, Roosevelt said, “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels.” Roosevelt chose the word “candor” to evoke feelings of honesty and sincerity. He wanted to appear different from people who had been dishonest in the past and who had negatively affected the economy, such as the bankers. Furthermore, Roosevelt used “we” and “our” through the rest of the first paragraph. His use of these pronouns suggested that he was a part of the American people and conveyed his belief that the nation’s citizens should face the challenges ahead of them together. These words suggested unity and cooperation when building a nation with profitable industries. Also, citizens would unite to solve the problems faced by farmers and unemployed individuals. Lastly, Roosevelt planned to “wage a war” on the economic crisis impacting the United States. The choice of these words caused people to think about courage during a war and how people should face the economic crisis with the same amount of courage they would have during a war. Roosevelt used diction to obtain feelings of trust, unity, and courage from American citizens.
In addition to diction, Roosevelt used parallelism in his speech to encourage his audience. Franklin used parallelism when he said, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.” The parallelism was the phrases “will endure,” “will revive,” and “will prosper.” This parallelism equated “revive” and “prosper” and emphasized both words. People would think about both reviving and prospering in the future despite the dismal economy. Americans will not only overcome current problems; they will also thrive. Roosevelt used parallelism again when he stated, “Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen.” The parallelism was the phrases “have shrunken,” “have risen,” and “has fallen.” Franklin kept using the present perfect tense to warn people of their current economic problems. This would encourage people to work harder by demonstrating the grimness of the economy. It was time for Americans to face their problems head on. Roosevelt described the economy: “It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss… It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith … It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities… It can be helped by national planning … “ Franklin used parallelism when he repeated the phrase “It can be helped.” This parallelism allowed people to become hopeful when they keep hearing the phrase “It can be helped.” By repeating the phrase, people will feel safe about the future and not give up because chances are that things will improve. Franklin emphasized that the economic depression will have a turning point, and eventually people would have jobs, money, and enough food. Roosevelt used parallelism in his address to encourage and inspire hope.
Lastly, Roosevelt used repetition to summon courage and a sense of community from his audience. He repeated the word ‘fear’ when he said, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”. This repetition stayed strongly in people’s mind by using the word “fear” twice. Also, it encourages people to be courageous and not to fear the dark economy. Roosevelt talked about foreign policy as followed: “In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.” Roosevelt repeated the word “neighbor” four times and the word “respect” four times to emphasize an important point using repetition, a rhetorical strategy. Even though some foreign countries were economic competitors, they were to be respected and treated like friendly neighbors. Roosevelt was appealing to the audience’s sense of community. He extended this concept of community by emphasizing that America was part of a global community. Roosevelt used repetition in his address to call forth courage and encourage a sense of community from his audience.
In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt evoked hope, trust, and a sense of community by using diction, parallelism, and repetition. With the efficient use of these literary devices, this speech stayed in people’s minds and gave people hope and confidence that they will be able to survive the Great Depression. As a supporter of the democratic government party, he spent most of his term guiding the government to help people achieve more economic prosperity. His first inauguration speech was just one of his many influential addresses, and his subsequent achievements continued to give people hope.
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