History remembers Franklin Delano Roosevelt as one of the greatest presidential orators of all time. Inspiring speeches delivered when the world was its most vulnerable were his forte. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ (his 1933 inaugural address) and ‘The Four Freedoms’ (his 1941 State of the Union address) are just two of many addresses that were born from his remarkable intellect and vision. They were designed to spur the nation, and the world, into action. However, probably one of his most renowned addresses concerned a smaller domestic matter.
On September 23rd 1944, Roosevelt kicked off his fourth presidential campaign at a dinner hosted by the International Teamsters Union in Washington DC. He chose to greet the gathering with a speech focusing on Republican charges that he commissioned a naval destroyer - at great cost to the American taxpayers - to retrieve his dog Fala from the Aleutian Islands after leaving his four-legged companion in the Alaskan outpost by accident.
|Here I am flanked by FDR and Fala!|
This is what FDR told his audience that night.
‘These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or on my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family don't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars - his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself ... But I think I have a right to resent, to object to, libelous statements about my dog.’
See FDR's hilarious speech here
If Republicans today slandered Bo or Sunny Obama (the current First Dogs of the United States) I could imagine a scandal erupting that the media would promptly nickname ‘mutt-gate’. But at the height of World War Two, FDR didn’t have time for such nonsense. Roosevelt decided to crush the allegations with humour.
The President’s ‘Fala speech’ was such a success that even his Republican detractors saw the absurdity in their claims and had to admit that Roosevelt handled the matter extremely shrewdly.