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"Day of Infamy" FDR speech 1st draft goes on display in New York

FDR and Pearl Harbor

HYDE PARK, N.Y. - Seventy-five years after he dictated what would become one of the most famous speeches ever delivered by an American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first draft of his “Day of Infamy” speech is on display at his former upstate New York estate-turned-museum.

The exhibit titled “Day of Infamy: 24 Hours that Changed History” is on display at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park through Dec. 31.

The exhibit includes a rare public display of Roosevelt’s first draft of the speech he dictated to his secretary in the hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The document shows FDR’s own handwritten editing of his words, including where he scratched out “world history” and wrote “infamy” in the opening sentence.

The first draft, which is about two-and-a-half pages, is rarely displayed in order to protect its condition.

Paul Sparrow, director of the FDR Library, said: “Some of his advisors, the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, wanted him to deliver a much longer speech.”

The State Department drafted a 17-page speech rehashing the history of U.S.-Japanese relations, but Roosevelt set it aside and went with his gut.

“He knew that the American public wanted to hear that we had been wronged and that we will find a way to victory,” Sparrow said.

“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.”

When he addressed the joint session of Congress, Roosevelt -- who was paralyzed by polio from the waist down -- insisted on walking to and from the podium.

“He’s supporting his weight as he did in public on a cane and on his son’s arm,” Eberhardt said. “By holding his weight in that manner, he’s able to pitch his body forward slowly and walk to the rostrum to deliver the speech.”

Sparrow added, “He put the weight of the world on his paralyzed legs and carried America from the past into the future, and changed us from an isolationist nation into a global superpower.”

The speech lasted just 6 1/2 minutes. But it transformed the nation from a state of shock into a state of war.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Address to Congress, December 8, 1941 by FDRLibrary on YouTube