[FOUNTAIN]Campaigning on the force of one’s rhetoric

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[FOUNTAIN]Campaigning on the force of one’s rhetoric

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933. At the time, Americans had lost hope and self-confidence in the depths of the Great Depression.
Between 1929 and 1932, real gross domestic product had fallen by more than 20 percent, and the nominal gross domestic product, which reflected decreases in prices, was halved.
Americans were seized with fear that their lives would get even more miserable. So Mr. Roosevelt focused on giving hope to depressed citizens. He spent four hours on the day before his inauguration polishing the speech. He adopted the famous phrase from a work by the 19th-century writer Henry David Thoreau at the last minute. He wanted to deliver the message that the depression could be overcome with vision and will.
He also declared, “Our greatest task is to put people to work.” Employment became the priority of his administration and the message was simple, clear and ear-catching. As soon as Mr. Roosevelt settled into the White House, he proclaimed that the government would actively intervene in the economy, a departure from the previous laissez-faire attitude in Washington. Four years after his New Deal program began, real gross domestic product recovered to pre-depression levels and over 6 million jobs were created.
In his reelection campaign in 1936, Mr. Roosevelt emphasized his economic achievements. The charismatic leader became even more confident. His speeches were more aggressive than his inaugural address, but the voters revered him. At a campaign speech in Madison Square Garden in New York City, he roared, “We will keep our sleeves rolled up.” Aside from promising a better economy, he did not need any fancy slogans or sophisticated rhetoric. As a result, he won all 48 states and was reelected.
Political commentators in the United States consider Mr. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address his best. The speech laid out his vision and roadmap and was very persuasive. Some say that Mr. Roosevelt won three more elections and successfully served four presidential terms thanks to the spirit of his first inaugural address.
As the National Assembly election approaches, Korean voters want a real vision and a strong will from our politicians.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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