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The Medium Matters

Objective:  By experiencing and analyzing the Day of Infamy speech through three separate mediums (audio-visual, audio and print) students will discover that each medium has its own unique properties and characteristics which impact its ability to inform and persuade an audience.

Grade Level: 6-12

Compelling Questions:

  1. How did the “Day of Infamy” change US and World History?
  2. Why does it matter how and from where we get our news and information?

Historic Significance: Having first heard news of the attack on Pearl Harbor by radio, the nation was hungry for further information and details surrounding the events going on in Hawaii and Washington D.C. In the days before television and the internet, radio and newspaper accounts were the only sources of information and so public access to information was limited. 

Materials: Re-mastered video, audio and text presentations of President Roosevelt’s December 8, 1941 address to the Joint Session of Congress. The speech analysis worksheet. For a copy of the film, please send your mailing address to Jeffrey.Urbin@nara.gov.


  1. Divide the class into three groups.
  2. Provide one group with a transcript of FDR’s Day of Infamy speech, one group with a sound recording, and the third group with the re-mastered video of President Roosevelt’s December 8, 1941 address to the Joint Session of Congress.
  3. Distribute copies of the analysis sheets to each group and ask them to evaluate the effectiveness of the speech using the criterion outlined on the sheet.

Supporting Questions:

  1. Why is it important to get your news from a variety of sources?
  2. Why does it matter how information concerning an event is delivered to us?
  3. What medium is the most effective way to communicate?
  4. Why was it important to record the Day of Infamy speech with video and audio?
  5. Has the variety and preponderance of media platforms from which we get our information made us a better informed citizenry?

Concluding Activity: Ask the students to share their evaluation results and compare and contrast the results between the three delivery methods. Which do they believe is the most effective medium?

One Step beyond: Try this exercise with other famous American speeches such as: Martian Luther King’s I have a Dream speech; President Reagan’s address to the nation following the Challenger Disaster or others of your choosing. 

Speech Analysis Worksheet

Pearl Harbor Classroom Activities