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[Detail] Vinyl recording of President Wilson.

U.S. History

The American Leaders Speak collection of fifty-nine sound recordings captures the voices and opinions of prominent Americans. The recordings contain selections from speeches on World War One and the election of 1920. The recordings were recreated under studio conditions, and are excerpts of the actual speeches. Almost every speaker is passionate, and appeals to the listener's emotions as well as intellect.

1) Fifteen of the recordings focus on World War One, and were recorded in 1918. All express support for the United States' participation in the war, yet the recordings present a variety of perspectives and reasons for supporting the war.

a) Some of the speeches reflect American idealism about the war. For example, idealistic views are present in Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo's speech "American Rights" and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise's speech "What Are We Fighting For?" The speech "America's Choice and Opportunity," by Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, also strikes an idealistic cord.

Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 29.2 sec.; 315 KB

Search on war, idealism for speeches such as:
"America's Choice and Opportunity" by Newton D. Baker, which includes the text;

So that when we entered this war, we entered it in order that we and our children's children might fabricate a new and better civilization, under better conditions, enjoying liberty of person liberty of belief, freedom of speech, and freedom as to our political institutions. We entered this war to remove from ourselves, our children, and our children's children, the menace which threatens to deny us that right.


b) The speeches cover well-known reasons for American entry into the War, including the sinking of the Lusitania, the Rape of Belgium, American security interests, and a desire to make the world safe for democracy.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 27.6 sec.; 298 KB

Search on Lusitania, Belgium, security,and democracy. For example, search on Lusitania for the speech:

"The Nation in Arms" by Franklin K. Lane, which includes the text; We are fighting Germany because she sought to terrorize us and then to fool us. We could not believe that Germany would do what she said she would do upon the seas. Yet, we still hear the piteous cries of children coming out, out of the sea where the Lusitania went down, and Germany has never asked forgiveness of the world.

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c) The war time speeches champion national unity.

Listen to the excerpt:
William G. McAdoo Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 19.5 sec.; 211 KB

William G. McAdoo Listen to the excerpt:

WAV format; 19.5 sec.; 211 KB

Search on unity and national. For example, search on unity for speeches such as:
"American Rights" by Secretary of Treasury William G. McAdoo, which includes the text;

We are by nature a peaceful people, but we are a fighting people where the rights of America and of humanity are concerned. It is unfortunate for the German military despot who precipitated this war, that he did not realize beforehand that America has fighting spirit and national unity.


d) Loyalty and patriotism are often cited as reasons to support the war. More extreme and vitriolic views reflect wartime distrust of German-Americans.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 25 sec.; 270 KB

Search on war and loyalty, patriotism, or German-American. For example, search on loyalty, war for speeches such as:
"Loyalty" by Ambassador to Germany James W. Gerard, which includes the text;

And if there are any German-Americans here who are so ungrateful for all the benefits they have received that they are still for the Kaiser, there is only one thing to do with them. And that is to hog-tie them, give them back the wooden shoes and the rags they landed in, and ship them back to the Fatherland.


e) Labor is represented through many speeches, including speeches that touch on the need for factories to support the soldiers of World War I. Samuel Gompers' speech "Labor's Service to Freedom" deals directly with labor's stake in the war.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 35.8 sec.; 386 KB

Search on labor and factory. For example, search on labor for speeches such as:
"Labor's Service to Freedom" by Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which includes the text;

This war is a people's war -- labor's war. The final outcome will be determined in the factories, the mills, the shops, the mines, the farms, the industries, and the transportation agencies of the various countries. That group of countries which can most successfully organize its agencies ofproduction and transportation, and which can furnish the most adequate and effective agencies with which to conduct the war, will win.


f) Many of the speeches refer to war bonds and the necessity for sacrifice by all Americans in the great national cause.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 27 sec.; 292 KB

Search on bonds and sacrifice. For example, search on bonds for speeches such as:
"One Hundred Million Soldiers" by Frank A. Vanderlip, which includes the text; Then mark your service by foregoing unnecessary things and bringing, buying with the money you save bonds of the United States, big bonds if you can, baby bonds in any event. Buying war saving stamps means equipping the army, means saving the lives of American soldiers, means whipping the Huns, and redeeming the world for civilization.

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2) The forty-four recordings about the election of 1920 present an interesting record of one of the great elections. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson, the sitting President and a Democrat, suffered a stroke after exhausting himself with campaigns on behalf of the League of Nations. The 1920 election pitted Republicans Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge against Democrats James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt. Harding won by a landslide.


a) The election speeches cover a multitude of issues of the day.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 30.5 sec.; 329 KB

Search on foreign policy, taxes, child labor, government regulation, and domestic unrest. For example, search on domestic, unrest for speeches such as:
"Confidence in Government" by Democratic presidential candidate James M. Cox, which includes the text;

There is unrest in the country. Our people have passed through a trying experience. The European war, before it engulfed us, aroused every racial throb in a nation of composite citizenship. The conflict in which we participated carried anxieties into every community, and thousands upon thousands of homes were touched by tragedy. The inconveniences incident to the war have been disquieting.


b) Warren Harding's victory in the 1920 election has been credited, in part, to his mellow, alliterative speaking style. Harding campaigned for a "return to normalcy" following the hardships of World War I.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 27.7 sec.; 299 KB

Search on Harding for speeches such as:
"Readjustment" by Senator Warren G. Harding, which includes the text;

America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality but sustainment in triumphant nationality.

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c) America's participation in The League of Nations was a hotly debated election topic. Wilson campaigned for it, then Cox and Roosevelt took up the banner for the Democrats. Harding and the Republicans campaigned against America's participation in the League, and were strongly opposed to the international security commitments America would have to make as part of the League.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 22.3 sec.; 241 KB

Search on league and League of Nations for speeches such as:
"Achievements of the Democratic Party" by Homer S. Cummings, Chairman, Democratic National Committee, which includes the text:

All who love America and peace and liberty will take a solemn pride in supporting the President in his efforts to secure a treaty of peace based upon a stabilizing league so that war may not recur and the standards of justice may be applied to all nations alike.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 19.2 sec.; 208 KB

Search on Harding and League of Nations for speeches such as "His call for reservations to the League of Nations" by Senator Warren G. Harding, which includes the text;

Can any red-blooded American be content now, when we have come to understand its priceless value -- to merge our nationality into internationality, merely because brotherhood and fraternity and fellowship and peace are soothing and appealing terms?


d) The election speeches are full of campaign rhetoric. Some of the speechescover Progressive reform measures and the New Nationalism.

Listen to the excerpt:
Listen to the excerpt:
WAV format; 23.3 sec.; 251 KB

Search on Democrats, Wilson, Cox, Roosevelt; Republicans, Harding, Coolidge; progressive, and nationalism. For example, search on progressive for speeches such as:
"Democracy's Achievement" by Senator Robert L. Owen, which includes the text;

It [the Democratic Party] has passed fifty great progressive acts, such as the Federal Reserve Act, the Farm Loan Act, the Good Roads Act, the Agricultural Extension Act, Vocational Instruction. It has organized the Department of Labor, the Federal Trade Commission, the Tariff Commission, and showed itself, by the overwhelming evidence of concrete acts, the one great, liberal, progressive, and truly democratic party of the nation.

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