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Analysis of Ronald Reagan’s 40th Anniversary D-Day Address Essays

Ronald Reagan, born February 6, 1911, accomplished a great many things in his life. He changed lives and inspired many people from a wide variety of standpoints as an actor, governor, soldier, and eventually president of the United States of America. Reagan was a brilliant and gifted speaker, garnering himself with fame as a star actor, trust and relateability as a loving husband and father, and the love of the American people as the president who reformed the government, decreased the people’s reliance on it, and set the Cold War up for an end during his successor, George H.
W. Bush’s term. From a young age, Reagan was known for his strong faith, belief in the inherent goodness of mankind, and opposition to racism. It is said that at the age of twelve, Reagan took a group of African-American travelers who were denied access to a local inn home, where his mother fed them and allowed them to stay the night. As a young adult and college student at Eureka College, Reagan was famous for discrediting the school’s president when he tried to fire some of the school’s faculty. The faculty was saved, the president was eventually forced to leave the school.
After college, Reagan broke onto the media scene in radio, starting by broadcasting football games for the University of Iowa. He worked his way up the radio ladder, and eventually broke into film with a series of shoddy B-movies produced for Warner Brother’s Studios. As time went by, Reagan moved from B-list actor to A-list support, eventually starring as a college football player in Knute Rockne, All American. The movie earned him the lifelong nickname, “The Gipper. ” His personal favorite film performance was, however, the role of Drake McHugh, a double amputee, in King’s Row.
It was also considered his best by many critics and fans. Reagan’s life as an actor was cut short by a sudden military career, however. Reagan was restricted to limited service due to his nearsightedness, forcing him to serve strictly within the United States. In a short time, he was put on duty producing recruitment videos for the army. By the end of his career, he produced around 400 training and recruitment films, and ranked as a a lieutenant. He nearly attained Major status, but this was disapproved right before his second transfer to the 1st Motion Picture unit.
Reagan began his political career as a liberal democrat, but changed his policies and opinions as he grew closer to republican actress Nancy Davis, who eventually became his wife. During his time as a democrat, he endorsed Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon. Reagan officially became a member of the republican party in 1962, claiming that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me. ” Reagan hit an odd transitional phase then, many of his opinions started changing rapidly as he grew into the leader who would become president.
In 1967, Reagan was sworn in as the governor of California. This was during his aforementioned transitional phase, and he made many choices he later regretted, such as signing a pro-abortion bill. He served two sentences, and then decided it was time to move on and move up. He started campaigning for the presidency in 1967 against current president Gerald Ford. Reagan quickly established himself as the conservative candidate, though the campaign failed and he lost to Jimmy Carter. In 1980 he began another campaign to defeat Carter, in which he asked opponent George W.
H. Bush to be his running mate and strongly opposed a bill which would ban gays, lesbians, and supporters of homosexual rights from working in public schools. This time he prevailed, and was sworn in the next year! Reagan was famous during his presidency for declaring that “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem. ” He moved to decrease the common man’s reliance on government, and was also know for being the first president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.
Two months into his first term he was hit by a bullet to the chest, but lived through a near-death surgery to resume his duties. The survived assassination improved his popularity greatly with the people. Long after his presidency, on June 6, 1984, Reagan addressed an old group of World War II veterans and world leaders on Normandy Beach, France, to dedicate a memorial to the great battle fought there and honor the warriors who served throughout, both living and dead.
The day was significant in that it was not only the the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, when the United States dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the island nation of Japan, but of the battle for Normandy Beach itself. Approximately 29,000 Americans died in the battle, many of the present veterans has lost friends forty years ago on that very beach. It was morning, and video footage shows that the the mood was somber, and all eyes were turned too the former president. Reagan’s purpose was to honor the fallen, so it was important that he maintained the aforementioned somber mood.
He did this by opening his speech with a summary of the situation surrounding the battle. “For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue,” he said. Parallelism can be observed here, as he shows the undesirable circumstances of both World War II victims and American allies. This parallelism also serves to make the next sentence of his first paragraph stand out even more. “Here, in Normandy, the rescue began,” said Reagan. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history. ” It was as if he was bluntly stating that the men before him were heroes. They were the ones who led the Allied army to victory. It was an effective way of involving his audience. It is clear at this point that Reagan is telling a story. The next three paragraphs tell this story, utilizing strong sensory language bring the surrounding veterans back to the day they stormed Normandy beach, and to spark the imaginations of the younger onlookers and world leaders listening.
Strong auditory descriptions are used in the speech’s second paragraph, when Reagan describes the “cries of men,” the “crack of rifle fire,” and “roar of [the] cannon. ” it is also important to note that for the first three paragraphs, Reagan does not use the word “American,” but calls the troops storming the beach the “Allies. ” This is of utmost importance; Reagan knew how crucial his sensory language was to maintain his audience’s interest, and wanted to insure that it applied to all present onlookers. This becomes far more apparent later in the speech.
Reagan’s storytelling tendencies become very apparent in the fourth paragraph, but the sixth, seventh, and eighth are where they truly shine, along with his inclusiveness. Reagan begins to tell stories about the actions of the Scottish, Polish, and Canadian armies. These three paragraphs are key to understanding the brilliance of Reagan’s speech. Not only do they build credibility and likeability with the non-American leaders and soldiers present at the dedication, but they shatter- if only for the duration of the speech- the still prevalent international stereotype that Americans are so arrogant and ull of themselves as to consider themselves more important or strong than other peoples. Reagan does little to glorify America or its efforts during the speech, he highlights unity between nations, the combined will to fight, makes us realize that it took all the allies to win the war. Given the location of the memorial and his audience, this was a stroke of brilliance. The end of Reagan’s stories glorifying the multiculturalism of the Allied army (paragraph 8) marks the end of the first part of the speech.
If Reagan was utilizing the dramatistic pentad, it could be said that he had explained and satisfied the act, scene, agent(s), and agency. If it seems as though Reagan has rushing things a bit, that is because he has. However that’s just fine, as all he has left is purpose, and purpose was always the whole point of the speech. The reason for the fighting and bloodshed is what Reagan came to explain, thus it is fitting that he dedicates the rest of his speech to it. “Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here.
You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? ” Thus begins the tenth paragraph. Reagan’s speech becomes very personal now, with repetition of the word “you” to draw in, specifically, the veterans surrounding him. Reagan’s speech stays thematically the same from now on. His goal is to promote and renew the unity between all the nations present, and he uses some mixed techniques to do so.
Knowing that Europe is primarily christian as America is, he makes sure to drop plenty of references to God throughout his speech. This is not to say he merely used them to gain good moral standing with his audience; Reagan’s God references were from the heart, and proven by a long life of christian faith and service and there is little doubt that his audience knew it. Said references begin in paragraph eleven and continue up throughout fourteen, ending when Reagan talks about the men of D-Day and the forced that assisted them, declaring that “God was an ally in this great cause. In keeping with his theme of unity, Reagan tells of the state of the world after the war, and the need the allies had had to come together and help each other rebuild. “The allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. ” Reagan uses assonance here to emphasize the virtues and values of the allied armies and people, likely to encourage his audience and build a common bond between the mixed nationalities present. Reagan knew that, unfortunately, not all went well in the war and many lives and nations were lost.
He makes sure to take time to honor them in paragraphs seventeen through nineteen. He specifically mentions Warsaw, where hundreds of thousands of polish civilians were killed, Prague, where America was accidentally responsible for some 700 civilian deaths, and East Berlin, where up to 50,000 died. “The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came,” Reagan said. “They’re still here, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Assonance is once again employed to emphasize how the threat still lives on, followed by a quick reassurance that the American troops stationed in Europe are only there to preserve and protect democratic values, as well as guard memorial sites. “We will pray forever that someday change will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew out commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it. ” Reagan brings his speech full circle now, returning to the need for unity amongst the nations.
He knows that the previously mentioned soviets are still lurking throughout Europe, and predicts a time when the allies may have to rise up and defend freedom, liberty, and democracy again. This has always been the entire point of the speech, to renew vows and bring to light still-present similarities and common goals among the nations. Twice in the speech Reagan uses a biblical quote to boost morale, “I shall not fail thee or forsake thee,” as God says to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. He first uses it in paragraph fourteen when talking about the faith the allied soldiers had for God.
He uses it again at the end of the speech to encourage his audience and well up feelings of faith and the christian brotherhood between them. Not only does this link the entire audience together, but it links them to those who fought and died forty years before. In the end, Reagan’s unity extends back through time itself. After the speech was finished, Reagan personally greeted each veteran present by name, cementing his impression as a man focused, even long after his presidency, on uniting the world against evil. Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
Bibliography

Facts about Reagan’s life:
Ronald Reagan.”The White House. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. .

“Ronald Reagan.” IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. .

War facts/ casualty numbers:
“SCHIELE.US Casualty Statistics of American Battles Page.” SCHIELE.US Home Page. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. .

Speech text:
“Ronald Reagan — 40th Anniversary of D-Day Address.” American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

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