Essay Example on John F Kennedy Inaugural Speech Analysis


American History , Cold War


History , War






An Olive Branch in Troubled Times. In the midst of the Cold War newly elected president, John F Kennedy delivered his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. The conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union had caused much division in the United States, election resulting in his narrow victory Kennedy at the time was the youngest president and the first Roman-Catholic ever elected to the office. These two factors caused even more speculation on whether Kennedy was a fit president, especially at such a conflicted time. With this tension in mind, Kennedy sought to unite the divided country and reinvigorate patriotism in the new generation of Americans. He accomplished this task by using diction rhetorical tropes and modes of persuasion in his inaugural address when he took the office. Despite his young age Kennedy confidently takes the presidential office by using archaic and abstract diction in his inaugural address. Wanting to assure his country that he is a leader who his country can trust Kennedy implements words such as asunder forebears and anew to set a formal and old fashioned tone to his speech. These words carry a heavy and powerful aura about them and thus make them effective in persuasion. By using these outdated words Kennedy effectively conveys that his age does not undermine his authoritative abilities nor define his skills as a politician.

Kennedy also includes abstract words such as loyalty, freedom and sacrifice to set a serious tone. These words possess strong emotional depth and thus appeal greatly to pathos. These intangible yet carefully selected words elicit a profound emotional response from his audience the American people. By using these loaded words Kennedy is able to successfully persuade his audience to his cause. Kennedy also uses several rhetorical devices such as epanalepsis and appeal to religion to achieve his goals. He scatters the words let us throughout his speech in order to emphasize the need for unification. Kennedy makes use of the unifying power of language to bind the division in the United States and mend the tensions. Kennedy also urges the public to Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth as it is the command of Isaiah. By appealing to people's core beliefs their religion, he aims to resolve the religious tension that has divided the public. Kennedy seeks to convince his audience that even though he is of a different denomination of Christianity he still shares the same Christian values. He utilizes religion as it is a major unifying factor to bring the public together towards a common goal. In his speech, Kennedy also implements the use of pathos and ethos to unite the people of the United States and its allies. Kennedy argues that man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.

 And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God. He concedes that the world has the ability to eradicate many issues that plague mankind, yet many are still fighting for their fundamental freedoms. This has a strong appeal to ethos as it raises ethical and moral questions regarding the state of affairs of the world. The excerpt would likely elicit a kind of negative feeling in the audience. Wanting the negative feelings to be resolved the audience would then want the injustices in the world to be resolved. Kennedy urges that these issues can be resolved when people come together and address the issues together. He also speaks to those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery and promises to help them help themselves for whatever period is required not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. Through this Kennedy is strongly appealing to people’s sense of pathos by eliciting strong emotional responses such as pity and anger due to the state of others, less fortunate around the world.

 These emotions are then turned into patriotism as Kennedy pledges to free the people who are suffering because it is the right thing to do. The strong patriotic response is essential in uniting a divided population. President John F Kennedy sought to win the favor and support of the people by instilling a feeling of unity and patriotism within the American people and its allies. Wanting to unify the divided country he successfully implements many different rhetorical devices to call upon people to act on a common goal. His call to action reinforces people’s confidence in him as well as reinvigorates people’s hope for peace and a better tomorrow.

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