Friday, September 23, 2011

The Fala Speech

On September 23, 1944, President Roosevelt kicked his re-election campaign into high gear with the "Fala Speech," delivered in Washington, DC, to the Teamsters (the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, to give its formal name).

This clip is a little disjointed, but it does include some of the more memorial parts of the speech.

Aged from his 11-plus years in office, FDR nevertheless gave a spirited campaign speech. Fala of course was his dog, pictured here in bronze at the FDR Memorial in Washington DC. The president mentioned Fala toward the end of the speech, to answer the untrue charge that the president had left the dog behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him, and as an example of Republican falsehoods.

The president had plenty else to say about his opposition. "You are, most of you, old enough to remember what things were like for labor in 1932," noted at one point.

"You remember the closed banks and the breadlines and the starvation wages; the foreclosures of homes and farms, and the bankruptcies of business; the Hoovervilles, and the young men and women of the nation facing a hopeless, jobless future; the closed factories and mines and mills; the ruined and abandoned farms; the stalled railroads and the empty docks; the blank despair of a whole Nation -- and the utter impotence of the federal government.

"You remember the long, hard road, with its gains and its setbacks, which we have traveled together ever since those days. Now there are some politicians who do not remember that far back, and there are some who remember but find it convenient to forget. No, the record is not to be washed away that easily.

"The opposition in this year has already imported into this campaign a very interesting thing, because it is foreign. They have imported the propaganda technique invented by the dictators abroad. Remember, a number of years ago, there was a book, Mein Kampf, written by Hitler himself. The technique was all set out in Hitler's book -- and it was copied by the aggressors of Italy and Japan. According to that technique, you should never use a small falsehood; always a big one, for its very fantastic nature would make it more credible -- if only you keep repeating it over and over and over again.

"Well, let us take some simple illustrations that come to mind. For example, although I rubbed my eyes when I read it, we have been told that it was not a Republican depression, but a Democratic depression from which this nation was saved in 1933 -- that this administration this one today -- is responsible for all the suffering and misery that the history books and the American people have always thought had been brought about during the 12 ill-fated years when the Republican Party was in power.

"Now, there is an old and somewhat lugubrious adage which says: 'Never speak of rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.' In the same way, if I were a Republican leader speaking to a mixed audience, the last word in the whole dictionary that I think I would use is that word 'depression.' "

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