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The Spirit of Man Goeth Upward

Research by Laura S. McKee, Berea Sound Fellow, regrading how WW-II era radio and personal histories have shaped the development of "From the Diary of Eve", a narrative series of poems set in Southern Appalachia.

FDR and reinstatement of the draft, 10-29-40

“On a gray rainy Washington morning,” Roosevelt and officials meet to commence the “conscription lottery” for 16.5 million men between the ages of 21-35. The announcer describes the scene in exacting detail, emphasizing the ceremony’s focal point: “a huge jar” filled with “capsules of registration numbers.”

The graveness of the affair is emphasized in the broadcaster’s tone as well as his detailing of the setting, outlining above all the room’s fascination with the jar itself as a rarefied, almost holy object, guarded and monitored: the “glass jar which now stands under the blaze of spotlights just under the eye of two blue-uniformed policemen.” I was especially struck by the imagery evoked by his descriptions. He juxtaposes the orderliness and formality of room with the inherent chaos and suspense surrounding the event as emblematized by the media. For example, he observes for the listener how the room is strung and draped in every direction with the cords of the media.

Roosevelt enters to applause and, as in the his train station speech in Louisville, the president “stands on the arm of General Watson…as the flash lights pop.” Roosevelt underscores the seriousness of the event as a turning point not only in the contours of American involvement in the war, but also in human history. He points out that though the draft is a “most solemn ceremony,” it is necessary “for only the strong may continue to live in freedom and peace.”

Roosevelt then reads from three letters of religious clergyman (Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant) who have written in support of the draft on the grounds that democratic ideals must be protected and peace restored. Nearing his conclusion, Roosevelt also stresses the link between the draft and self-defense and self-preservation:

"I do believe it is better to have protection and not need it than to need protection and not have it…I do believe that Americans want peace, but that we must be prepared to demand it. For other people have wanted peace, and the peace they received was the peace of death."

This broadcast will serve as the foundation for two poems in section two—one told from Eve’s perspective and one from her brother Patrick’s point of view. Moreover, this broadcast serves as the turning point for Patrick’s longing to join the Army for he is greatly moved by Roosevelt’s rhetoric.


Selective Service Draft, 10-29-40, Part I
President Roosevelt speaking at ceremony reinstating the draft.
WS-ET-40081. WHAS Historical Radio Collection, 1936-1967, HC 41.