FDR’s First Inaugural address, as a piece of communicative rhetoric, contains the use of many speech modules. Insofar as speech modules by definition give a structure to the discourse in question, identifying the specific speech modules in FDR’s 1933 speech requires the following interrelated approach. In order to accurately grasp when a particular speech module is being introduced in the context of this discourse, particular words and phrases which function in a manner which delineates the modules are to be identified. In FDR’s speech, four such modules are present. Firstly, an introductory use of speech module, which sets the context for his discourse. Secondly, FDR then proceeds to establish the values and ethical commitments which inform his presidency. Thridly, he more precisely describe his views on various policy approaches, such as world policy and economics. Whereas these specific policy issues may in turn be broken down into further sub-categories, for the purpose of this essay a broader analysis of the policy portion of the speech will be employed. Lastly, FDR summarizes his talk, providing an abstract of the basic spirit of what he has just communicated, as well as displaying to the public a shared commitment for the future.
Establishing the Context of The Talk
FDR begins his speech with the phrase “this is a day of national consecration.” In so far as the discourse is dedicated to the occasion of his inauguration as president, FDR wants to communicate, firstly, the nature of this event, and, secondly, what his specific inauguration entails. For FDR, this is a day in which the voters of the United States’ decision as to who should lead the country becomes official. The usage of the word national indicates that the democratic nature of his election, since the inauguration is the result of a nation-wide election process.
Furthermore, the term “consecration” functions to indicate the culmination of the electoral process itself. With this speech module, FDR wishes, therefore, to establish the context of his discourse, as well as setting out its nationwide significance. More precisely, FDR, in this vein, establishes the political context in which the discourse is given, namely, the various issues that framed the background of the election campaign. Accordingly, a continuation of this module of the speech is given in the phrase “we are faced with common difficulties”, thus establishing that the context of the speech is not only the occasion of his election, but rather that elections themselves are contested against the backdrop of vivid political issues which are to be resolved. FDR’s inauguration, in other words, is the result of a political community who has decided upon a particular path of leadership in response to specific political issues: the inauguration of FDR is the last stage of this initial process.
FDR’s discourse then can be divided into a second speech module, which speaks more precisely about a shared set of values. Namely, FDR interprets his election and inauguration as a reflection that he, as candidate, has embodied what the American populace value in a president. In this sense, FDR retroactively justifies his election as president to the people, based on what they themselves wish for in a presidential figure. As FDR states, “happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” With this phrase, FDR therefore recapitulates what he feels to be how Americans themselves approach their own existential nature: to the extent that he also subscribes to this same portrait of human happiness, he shares the same fundamental ethical commitments as everyday Americans. This, once again, reiterates the theme of his inauguration, as he is the candidate who has most successfully shown himself to be committed to a shared view of human values and happiness.
FDR then begins to more precisely discuss relevant issues that are confronting American society. These issues are presented in a hierarchical form, which reflects what FDR considers to be the most pressing concrete issues that face his presidency. He begins the transition to this module of his speech with the phrase, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” Accordingly, FDR’s political world-view is above all in making the labor market and American economy as efficient as possible. This is the concrete political issue which has driven his candidacy for President and his inauguration. He provides very specific policy approaches regarding the realization of this goal, such as direct government planning as opposed to laissez-faire economics. FDR then moves down the hierarchical ladder of issues he has established, including the need to balance the American as well as international trade budgets. He then emphasizes the importance of international relations in terms of world policy and the relation of the U.S. to other countries, which he defines in terms of being a “good neighbor.” This is followed by other issues, such as the Constitution and executive and legislative authority. Accordingly, FDR in this section establishes what he feels to be the most pressing specific issues that face the U.S. and how he intends to approach them.
A SUMMARIZATION OF THE SPIRIT OF FDR’S PRESIDENCY
This final module reiterates what has gone before in the speech. This section arguably begins with the phrase “We face the arduous days that lay before us in the warm courage of the national unity.” This once again reiterates the nation’s decision to elect FDR as president. It acknowledges the precise issues that face the American populace as well as the figure chosen to confront these issues. It is thus a recapitulation of the spirit of the inaugural address and of FDR’s political world-view.
The text demonstrates a clear speech module structure. This enables FDR to easily transition from one point in the speech to another, such as establishing context and more precisely discussing policy issues. The speech accordingly demonstrates how discourses may be formed according to a particular model.