On December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, RealClearWorld wrote a great story about important speeches made by leaders of several great powers in the 20th Century, all coming during a time of war. The speeches are by American Presidents Bush (9/11), Reagan (Tear Down This Wall!), and FDR (Pearl Harbor/Japan-US War), Britain’s Churchill (Finest Hour), Germany’s Josef Goebbels (Total War), and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito (Surrender to US). All of these speeches were at crucial times in international politics and by some of the 20th Centuries biggest figures.
First, here is Sir Winston Churchill’s ‘Finest Hour’ speech. It must have been an incredibly distressing time for Britain (and the world) and you can hear it in the sound and tone of Churchill’s speech.
Now, I’m not one to post too much Nazi propaganda, but this speech by one of Hitler’s right-hand men, Josef Goebbels, is great and disturbing political theatre. Goebbels calls for total war and the Germans in the audience respond enthusiastically. If I was teaching a class on nationalism this would be shown on the first day.
Of the three American President speeches, I will show Reagan’s ‘Mr. Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall’ as it showcases the power of rhetoric backed up by substantive policies. The article correctly acknowledges that the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship was productive and rather warm, but that does not stop Reagan from going on the offensive. Many factors go into a nation’s foreign policy decision making process and this speech showcases just some of them; power politics, ideology, personal relationships, leader traits, etc.