As the proud daughter of a veteran of World War II, of course I was conscious of yesterday, Dec. 7. It still does live in infamy.
But today, Dec. 8, gave me the shivers of memory, too. I remember my dad talking about hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech when dad was at school — by radio, just as we later heard and watched things on TV in class. I also remember hearing the whole speech in a journalism class — our professor read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; FDR’s speech on Dec. 8, 1941; and Nixon’s resignation speech, and we had to write a single sentence starting a news story about each one.
I don’t recall what I did for Nixon, probably because I remember watching the speech at home. The Gettysburg Address intimidated me, so I wrote “The president dedicated the new cemetery here today.”
I remember that I went into the most detail on the speech that turns 79 years old today. I was the only person in class who got the central phrase correctly — “a date which will live in infamy.”
CBS’s Jane Pauley doesn’t use the exact phrase at the beginning of the video I’ve attached (from CBS News four years ago, via YouTube), but it’s there.
What fascinated me about seeing this story today is the idea that the president wrote the marvelous speech himself, or at least dictated it.
Then he edited his own work.
He had a good eye (or ear) for clunkers — he changed “world history” to “infamy.”
Advisors wanted a longer speech, but the president didn’t.
It’s worth thinking about. If you want to get your point across, why rely on someone else to write it?
As I’m writing this and destroying the original drafts by deleting words from the screen, something else comes to mind:
How are we going to know which recent or future presidents are any good at editing, or even choosing their own words, if we don’t see drafts on paper any more?
I hope somebody has a rule about saving the first drafts.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.