Stuart Chilton

SIXTY-EIGHT years ago today , one of the most famous speeches ever delivered  by a U.S. President took place.

The date was December 8, 1941, (a Monday) and the speaker was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of Congress. The occasion took place a day after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and other U. S. military facilities in the Pacific.

Roosevelt’s talk primarily centered around  the United States declaring war on Japan and the other Axis Powers – Germany and Italy. The president’s words blistered Japan for its surprised attack on Pearl Harbor, which amounted to a huge loss of life – 3,681 persons killed or wounded.  Eighteen U.S. ships were sunk, and 174 planes were destroyed. 

He began his talk with these words – “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date, which will live in infamy ….” Roosevelt was a terrific speaker, and most convincing with his thoughts and ideas.

I recall listening to his speech in Miss Lou Russell’s World History class in Marlin High School. I was 14 years old, and a sophomore at MHS.

Miss Russell, who also taught Latin, brought a radio to her class that day. The speech began at 11:30 a.m. (CST – 12;30 p.m. — Washington D.C. time). Having a keen interest in history, I carefully listened to the president’s talk.

It was a speech of lasting importance, and one that brought home to the American people that we were again at war – 23 years after the Armistice had been signed, ending World War I.

A little known fact about the speech is that President Roosevelt apparently left his reading copy in the House Chamber, where he had delivered his speech.

It seems a Senate clerk later found it, endorsed it “December 8, 1941, Read in joint session.”  The clerk then filed the document among the “Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46,” which is located in the National Archives Building. It was found in March, 1984 by an archivist. The speech remains today in the National Archives Building.

And as the late commentator, Paul Harvey, used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

STEPHENVILLE WAS blessed this year with some excellent football teams in the public schools and Tarleton State University.

Congratulations are in order to all the coaches, players, fans and others connected with the athletic programs. Football is a wonderful sport.

Now, we can move on to the bowl games – 34 in number – and the remaining games in the National Football League. Basketball has already made its appearance—it, too, is a great sport. 

’TIL NEXT TIME – “Times goes, you say? Ah no! Alas, Time stays, we go.” – Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921) English poet.

Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville.