Tuesday, 15 January 2013
We Hold These Truths
By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog
It was shortly after 6AM early one day last month. I scrolled through my Favorites and clicked on Norman Corwin under Media.
“We Hold These Truths popped up on the screen. It was a radio show that celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, broadcast simultaneously on all four radio networks on December 15, 1941. Sixty-three million Americans listened in.
The show, with a cast of Hollywood and radio luminaries that included Jimmy Stewart, Edward G. Robinson and Orson Welles, was the brainchild of radio’s resident genius, the writer, director and narrator Norman Corwin, who died October 18, 2011, in California, at the age of 101.
We Hold These Truths dramatized the signing of the Bill of Rights in 1791, but it also served another purpose: it helped marshal public opinion behind the war that Congress had declared only seven days before, on Monday, December 8, in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
A nation of 132 million peaceful citizens was still in shock over the attack and We Hold These Truths helped them focus on the arduous challenge of another world war.
At the close of the program, the NBC Symphony Orchestra played The Star-Spangled Banner under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. As the strains of the national anthem faded, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came on the air urging the nation to work as one, and assuring it of victory in the days and months ahead.
Listening to the program 71 years later, cynics may mock the patriotic tone of the narrative, forgetting how different the country was in 1941.
Still suffering from the ravages of the Great Depression, public opinion buffeted daily by isolationists who, until Sunday’s attack, maintained that the war in Europe was none of our affair, We Hold These Truths helped crystallize a nation’s resolve for the task ahead.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is a recording of the one-hour broadcast.
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