Hear It: FDR's Masterful D-Day Prayer

FDR led a prayer to our nation that to this day remains a paragon in elocution and empathy, courage and charisma, leadership under duress.

This past Saturday marked the 76th anniversary of D-Day — a day in which “the eyes of the world” were set upon ordinary Americans exhibiting extraordinary bravery.

They came from all corners of the country, all walks of life — united in their unenviable endeavor of breaching the Nazi-occupied beaches of Normandy and extinguishing the flames of a world on fire. Their sacrifice was great, the stakes even greater. Had they failed, Britain would’ve neared collapse, Americans forces shifted elsewhere, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would’ve likely been run out of office.

But on June 6, 1944, FDR led a prayer to our nation that to this day remains a paragon in elocution and empathy, courage and charisma, leadership under duress.

“Give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith,” Roosevelt said. “Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed. But we shall return again and again. And we know that by thy grace and by the righteousness of our cause, ours sons will triumph.”

Moments later, he added, “Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest.”

FDR used alliteration. He used unification. He used truth.

He didn’t make boastful promises about winning. Instead, he acknowledged many lives would be lost and urged God to let the Americans who made that sacrifice into His kingdom.   

FDR said, “And for us at home, fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers and brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them, help us, almighty God.”

“Let our hearts be stout to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons, wheresoever they may be,” he added.

They were words that showed empathy. They showed practicality. They showed unification. FDR was addressing the entire nation, not merely focusing on “his base.”  

Almost 10,000 Allied troops would be lost that day. But another 155,000 would reach shore and secure the French coast, shifting the course of the war and, simultaneously, the trajectory of the world to come.

There are times where we as leaders are up against it — egos getting in the way, external forces trying to tear our fabric apart, self-doubt creeping in. It’s pivotal in these times that our message is one of unity. We must not sugarcoat. We have an obligation to humbly tell the truth, but to do it in a way that assuages and creates a common cause.

FDR died less than a year later, before the end of the war. But his lessons in leadership on one of the most significant days in American history must never be forgotten.  

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