Most things are paid for in words, and they alone can get you out of an insufferable situation. Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara once said, “Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him.” In order to grasp the meaning of this quotation, a judicious analysis with sharp observation of the events surrounding these words are required. It is necessary to provide a brief biography of Robert McNamara, an overview of the event that influenced the speech, a discussion of his intended audience and an overview of the speech itself.
First, it is necessary to plunge into the life of Robert McNamara. In her book, Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara, Deborah Shapley described McNamara as, “a devious tactician and a man of sincere and noble goals” (xvi). He was born in San Francisco, California on June 9, 1916 (6). His father, western regional manager of a shoe company, was a man of rigid self-discipline and routine (6). His mother, a devout Protestant, was a homemaker who kept unusual statistics of Roberts’s early development (6). From his parents, McNamara learned “moral purpose and raw ambition” (11). His mother was extremely motivated to nurture her children in a way that would motivate them to climb the social and economic ladder (9).
Through his teenage years, McNamara attended Piedmont High and made the honor society (11). During this time he also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout (11). By the time he finished high school, Robert, “was schooled in an image of manhood in which a lack of emotion was admired and coldness was desirable” (11).
In the fall of 1933 McNamara attended University of California, Berkley (11). He was pledged by Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was appointed warden to the Order of the Golden Bear, a secret society that only allowed elite seniors (12). In 1936, he was appointed head of the student judicial committee (17). He went on to receive an A.B. in economics and philosophy (17). In 1939 he graduated from Harvard University with an M.B.A. (18). After graduating from Harvard, McNamara was hired by Price Waterhouse, an accounting firm (25). He was unhappy with the job and resigned when he was offered a position as a junior instructor in accounting at Harvard (26). Before he made the trip back east, McNamara got married with his girlfriend Margy Craig in August 1940 (26).
In October 1941 the McNamara’s had a daughter and named her Margy McNamara (28). Their second daughter, Kathleen McNamara was born in July 1944 (33). McNamara decided to serve in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943-1946 (29-38). He was commissioned to teach statistical control to new officers in training (29). After his military service, McNamara “reported for work at Ford” (39). His duty was to set a “financial control system for the company” (44). Shortly after, in 1950, the McNamara’s gave birth to their third child Robert Craig McNamara (50). McNamara rose in the Ford Motor Company’s ranks. In November 1960 he...