Statements That Changed History


Is there a connection between language and action, if so what responsibility do we have regarding what we express in the spoken, unspoken or written form? To these questions I must respond, with a resounding yes, language can lead to action or reaction, and we must use care when we make declarations of any sort. If we were to hold the position of head of state of any great nation of the world our language and how we choose its use can maintain peace or lead us into a disastrous war. Case in point: On December 7th, 1941 one of the most infamous events in our world history occurred, Japan launched a massive attack against the United States. According to an address to congress, the following day President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.” President Roosevelt is making a statement defining the events that were transpiring between the United States and Japan and he sets the scene for his audience to examine what was occurring, who was involved and the nature of these talks. Here is an example of what type of language was being used, this type was one of peace and diplomatic in nature. Language that was being used in order to maintain and hold fast a peaceful union. It also demonstrates who initiated these talks, namely the Emperor of Japan. He purposefully presents the Emperor and his involvement during this point, leading us to his accusation as is presented here as President Roosevelt continues, “Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message.”  We must take note here that the contents of this message is not presented, which is an example of how unspoken language can be used toward an end of its own. His statement continues, “And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations,”  we should use caution as we observe this portion, what transpired which caused this break from communication? “ it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.” Here we see an example of non-disclosure, as well as a presentation of an assumption that all is well when things are quite the opposite. When language is used as a primary form of communication sometimes what is not being said is more important than what has been. And sometimes what is said is definitive and leads to a very forceful action that can bring an entire nation to its knees, thus changing the history and landscape for decades to come. This is demonstrated as President Roosevelt continues, “I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.” These excerpts are taken directly from President Roosevelts address to congress requesting a declaration of war with Japan on December 8th, 1941. We see in this example language as it is being used for several different purposes. Through the use of the different examples of the forms language has taken in the excerpt above we can determine that indeed language and action are in fact connected and that we may very well be held responsible for our use of it and how we use it.


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