I recently offerred a $5000 reward for the first person to produce an unedited complete video of the speech delivered by FDR on March 1, 1945 to a national radio audience and a joint session of congress. I have now increased that amount to $10,000. It might as well be a million.
There is little dispute as to FDR's top two speeches: The first inaugural "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" and the day following December 7, 1941 "The day that will live in infamy". Take your pick which is better- they're both forever etched in history as among the greatest ever given (personally I vote for the first inaugural).
After that, there's room for debate. The March 1945 Yalta speech is my vote for number three in importance, obviously not on the basis of the horrendous oratorical performance, but as his final effort to consolidate his presidency into a legacy for the future of the world, The United Nations. It was the last ditch effort of a dying man to do what his mentor Woodrow Wilson could not, establish a successful vehicle to establish world peace.
What is not appreciated, despite every effort on my part, is that FDR actually knew he was doomed before his third term. Nonetheless, Frank Lahey put an exclamation point on it in July 1944, after which the United Nations became FDR's final obsession.
Unfortunately, Roosevelt's appeasement of "Uncle Joe" Stalin to get it done created an environment from which developed the cold war, Korea and Vietnam. The real tragedy of Yalta was not Poland. This was a "fait accompli" forged at Teheran. Stalin already had his puppet government established in Lublin and wasn't about to compromise his western flank.
The loss of Chiang Kai Shek as leader of China, (no bargain but the far better of two evils) was sealed by the secret agreements made at Yalta, unbeknownst to Chiang, his Cheif of Staff General Albert Wedemeyer and Ambassador Patrick Hurley. For a liberal democrat such as myself this may seem an odd assertion, but more than political philosophy, the hard, cold evidence is uncontrovertable.
The lack of existence of the Yalta Speech video is testimony to the incredible power over the media that FDR established over twelve years. If by some miracle a copy survives, it will blow a huge hole in Howard Brueen's fairy tale and confirm all we have asserted in our book. I'm not holding my breath!
It would be interesting to hear from readers how they rank FDR's top speeches. Please respond with comments to firstname.lastname@example.org