Rhetorical Analysis of Woodrow Wilson's War Address to Congress

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Rhetorical Analysis of Woodrow Wilson's War Address to Congress With the status of the country’s belligerency heavily in question, an apprehensive President Woodrow Wilson prepared to request from an unmotivated and unprepared country a declaration of war against Germany.
After exerting every attempt possible to retain the peace and honor of the
United States, the President was finally forced to choose between the two, in which he opted for the latter (Seymour 26). As he sat down to compose his congressional address proposing war, the uncertainty of his decision overwhelmed him. He confided to a member of his cabinet, Frank Cobb, that he had never been as unsure about anything in his life as the judgment he
was
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The same man who was reelected in
1916 on the platform “he kept us out of war”, who delivered the “peace without victory” speech, who urged his country to remain neutral “in action” as well as “in thought” was now asking Congress to approve American entry into the war. As President Wilson confronted the nation on the evening of April 2,
1917, he presented a case of past offenses coupled with present circumstances in hopes of providing a more effective case for leading
America into war (Blakey, 2). He employed antecedent-consequence throughout the beginning of his address to warrant his call for belligerency.
By recapitulating the events of German abomination as seen most profoundly in the sinking of United States vessels, Wilson let the record speak for itself. He appealed to the sense of compassion in his audience with the mention of “hospital ships as ships carrying aid to the stricken people of
Belgium....have been sunk with the same reckless lack of concern or principle”
(Baker 510) It was these “hard-hitting charges of outrage and insult by
Germany” that stirred Wilson’s listeners (Baker 514). He continued to relate events of the past to his present standpoint by admitting that he was at first “unable to believe that such things could be done by any
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