“It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
by Sharon Stevens
This last August as I was putting books on the shelf for the fall semester at WTAMU I came across the textbook, “History of Women In America” by Janet Coryell, required in Professor Jean Stuntz’s history class. Since it was a used text I thumbed through it and came across the radio speech First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave on the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I can only imagine how the speech writers must have scrambled franticly for just the right words that day to set the tone for the wife of the president. How Mrs. Roosevelt herself must have agonized as she trembled within to address all those who would listen to her voice, the emotion she knew she must convey. I wonder as well what copy the sponsor, The Pan American Coffee Bureau, had to toss out in support of the history unfolding that could very well affect relations with South America.
This history book is no longer on the shelf. It had been bought by a college student four months ago. So instead on the anniversary of the “day that would live in infamy” I Googled and read those words again, and listened to a recording of what Mrs. Roosevelt spoke December 7, 1941. She noted her husband was hard at work conferring with his cabinet, the heads of state, and even to the Ambassador to Japan. In so many words she was telling the nation that he had everything well in hand and to leave the worrying to him, a sentiment at the time. But she didn’t discount the fears of the mothers, the young people, the community. She, or her speech writers, knew she only had a few minutes with which to celebrate the strength of our United States built on one hundred and sixty five years of sacrifice on American soil.
The world couldn’t know that seventy years later you just had to touch a screen or keypad to take you anywhere in the universe you wanted to travel. Within seconds I pulled up a transcript of that moment in time. I listened to the cultured voice of the president’s wife, the strong words of an American soldier, and the light copy of the advertising sponsor. But the message will always remain the same. Year after year anyone can research any moment of any time recorded in history.
I treasure the ability to read, to research, to remember, to write, to memorialize. I celebrate that generations yet to be born will for a thousand, no a million years be able to question and argue history as it unfolds, all the while looking back on the past as it impacts our future.
I wonder what key points speech writers will write for the president on that day to commemorate our military and those on the home front at the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. All the while as the American people hold their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner is played.
The following is an excerpt of Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech.
“…You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it.
We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America!”