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World War II and America. The Isolationism Dilemma. Author’s Purpose. Before writing, authors must first understand what purpose or purposes they hope to achieve with regard to their readers. Typically, writers write for one of three reasons: to inform to persuade to entertain.

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World War II and America

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world war ii and america

World War II and America

The Isolationism Dilemma

author s purpose
Author’s Purpose

Before writing, authors must first understand what purpose or purposes they hope to achieve with regard to their readers.

Typically, writers write for one of three reasons:

to inform

to persuade

to entertain

theodore geisel
Theodore Geisel

Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, wrote both of those books.

His children’s books were not the only place he tried to inform and persuade his audience.

theodore geisel6
Theodore Geisel

This man vehemently op-posed isolationist atti-tudes in America with respect to World War II.

He published a great deal of artwork in PM, a New York newspaper, de-signed to convince the people of the United States to abandon isolationist policies.


In August of 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed what would be the first in a series of Neutrality Acts. These Congressional Acts were attempts to stop the United States from becoming involved in foreign affairs in order that we might focus our attentions on domestic affairs.


This idea was referred to as isolationism or protectionism.

charles lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

This man was a very outspoken isolationist.

He started a group called “America First” whose mission was to convince the United States government to stay OUT of World War II in the interest of protectionism.

charles lindbergh10
Charles Lindbergh

Lindbergh used his fame as a pilot and national hero to gain audience for his isolationist ideas.

the dilemma
The Dilemma

It is November 1941. You are an American living at a time when the vestiges of the Neutrality Acts are still selectively enforced by the government. Your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers are all discussing the state of the world and America’s place in it.

Should the United States maintain an isolationist foreign

policy per the Neutrality Acts,

or should we scrap it and go to war?

the dilemma12
The Dilemma

Paragraph 1 – Introduce yourself.

What is your name?

Who is your family?

What do you do for a living?

Where in the United States do you live?

What is your life like there?

the dilemma13
The Dilemma

Body Paragraphs – Introduce the facts. You must be able to support EVERYTHING that you include in the body with a documented source.

Build your position by answering the following questions based on your knowledge from this course and the primary sources provided.

the dilemma the questions
The Dilemma – the Questions
  • What is happening in Europe and Asia at this point in history?
  • How is America reacting?
  • What positions do people in the public eye take on the issue (President Roosevelt, Lindbergh, Geisel)?
  • How do they support their positions?
the dilemma15
The Dilemma

Concluding Paragraph – Add it all up.

  • After thinking about the different options, what do you think America should do?
  • Why do you think so?
  • What do you think will happen in America and in the world if our nation follows your advice?

Our first duty is to keep America out of foreign wars. Our entry would only destroy democracy, not save it. “The path to war is a false path to freedom.

“America First” distributed literature that explained the groups point of view. The following is a brochure that was distributed by the group.

  • In 1917 we sent our American ships into the war zone and this led us to war. In 1941 we must keep our naval convoys and merchant vessels on this side of the Atlantic.
  • Humanitarian aid is the duty of a strong, free country at peace. With proper safeguard for the distribution of supplies, we should feed and clothe the suffering and needy people of the occupied countries.
  • Not by acts of war abroad but by preserving and extending democracy at home can we aid democracy and freedom in other lands.
  • We must build a defense, for our own shores, so strong that no foreign power or combination of powers can invade our country, by sea, air or land.
Dr. Seuss published more than 400 editorial cartoons for PM between 1940 and 1948. The following examples specifically address isolationist policy and philosophy.
The New York Times followed Lindbergh’s speaking engagements quite closely. The following are excerpts from Times articles reporting on Lindbergh’s public statements.

Excerpt from the New York Times, September 16, 1939, covering a September 15 radio broadcast.


On May 22, 1940, the New York Times published letters to the editor by readers who weighed in on the May 20 editorial from differing perspectives. A sample of those letters appears below:

Article from the New York Times, October 31, 1941, covering a rally of “America First” at Madison Square Garden.
  • The Dr. Seuss Collection in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego

  • Portrait of Dr. Seuss by Everett Raymond Kinstler (1982)

  • Charles Lindbergh – American Aviator

  • Academy of Achievement

  • Kansas State University

  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2003)