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Presidents Speak

June 2024
1min read


Rhino R2-71970 (six CDs) ; Rhino R4-71970 (six cassettes)

Every president of the century except McKinley speaks in this lengthy collection of recordings, and hearing their words together makes vivid the course of oratory and politics in this century. The earliest selections, such as Taft on trusts and Theodore Roosevelt on Standard Oil, are short takes from standard stump speeches, specially recorded to be sold as 78s. For the most part they have all the excitement of a college lecture. In 1931 Herbert Hoover nervously stumbles through an address on unemployment relief. That is followed, as night by day, by the confident Franklin Roosevelt giving his first fireside chat: “My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking .” From FDR we also get an impassioned campaign speech, after which Truman’s cheerful informality in accepting the 1948 Democratic nomination ushers in a new sound: the brash tone of television talk. Ike gives his famous words on the military-industrial complex; Kennedy talks about the Cold War, in what Khrushchev called “the greatest speech by any American President since Roosevelt” LBJ invents the Great Society, and Nixon the Silent Majority; Reagan pays tribute to Gorbachev beneath a bust of Lenin in Moscow. The intended audience for this collection is probably libraries and professors, but it should hold far wider interest.

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