This paper is an analysis of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech. In Kennedy’s speech he wants the American people and other nations to come together to gain rights and freedom. Kennedy includes his staff members, citizens, and other nations as his audience. His intended purpose of the inaugural speech was to give the American people hope and motivation. He includes ethos, pathos, and logos in his speech in which emotions are used the most.
John F. Kennedy Inaugural Speech Rhetorical Analysis
John F. Kennedy, nicknamed Jack, was born to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and Joseph Patrick Kennedy on May 29th, 1917 (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). He was one of nine children. Kennedy attended Choate, a boarding school, in Connecticut. After he graduated from the boarding school in Connecticut, he attended Harvard in 1936 (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). In 1937, Kennedy’s father moved to England to become the United States Ambassador of England (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). When his father became the Ambassador of England, Kennedy became interested in politics and world affairs. He was able to learn more about history and government at Harvard. Kennedy would receive letters from his father about conflicts and tensions that England was going through. While his father was in England, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Kennedy published a book about why Great Britain was unprepared for the war (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). After Kennedy graduated from Harvard, he joined the Navy. He was awarded many medals for his duty. In 1946 Kennedy’s father convinced him to run for Congress in Massachusetts (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). He ended up winning. As the years went on Kennedy was in several political positions that eventually lead him to become the 35th President of the United States (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009). John F. Kennedy is a credible author for his inaugural speech. The inaugural speech was his start of his presidency. From being interested in politics and publishing books to running for several political positions Kennedy is a credible author for his inaugural speech.
The Inaugural Speech
Kennedy’s Inaugural speech intended to give people motivation. His speech was about coming together as a nation to make a change (Kennedy, 1961). He wanted to defend our rights as citizens even though there were threats from all over. In Kennedy’s speech he says, “I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation (Kennedy, 1961).” His opinion was that bringing light into the country could lighten up the world (Kennedy, 1961). Kennedy’s emotion and logic throughout the speech is intended to bring everyone together and do our duty as citizens.
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John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural speech was delivered on January 20th, 1961 in Washington, D.C. (Kennedy, 1961). The intended audience was to the fellow citizens of the United States and to surrounding nations. There are several examples where Kennedy speaks to the people of the U.S. and to other people outside of the United States. One example of President Kennedy speaking to the citizens of the U.S. was at the very beginning of his speech when he said, “Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens: (Kennedy, 1961).” Kennedy had the attention of everyone including his staff members and citizens of the United States. One example of Kennedy speaking to the other nations around the world was when he said: “Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction (Kennedy, 1961).” In this statement he had the attention of other nations who are our enemies. In Kennedy’s speech he persuades everyone to come together to make our land a better place. The President wants all Americans to make a difference and take a stand (Kennedy, 1961). An example of what he wants fellow citizens to do would be when he said, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country (Kennedy, 1961).” In Kennedy’s speech he wants to keep people motivated and to inspire others to make change.
During the time of Kennedy’s Inaugural speech, a lot was going on in the country including Vietnam and The Cold War (“Kennedy, J.F.,” n.d.). He uses the phrase “both sides” a lot in his speech because he is talking about both sides of the conflict. At this time, we were in the middle of the Cold War and the fear of a nuclear war (“Kennedy, J.F.,” n.d.). During Kennedy’s time in office he had sent over 12,000 troops to Vietnam (“Kennedy, J.F.,” n.d.). Kennedy offers help and equipment, but he stated, “They are the ones who have to win it or lose it (Kennedy, 1961).” During the start of Kennedy’s presidency, he made a promise to strengthen Americans forces because he noted that the Soviet Union was growing with guns and communism (“Kennedy, J.F.,” n.d.). In his speech he says, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty (Kennedy, 1961).” He wanted to stress that the free world and the communist world would have to fight to win.
Pathos, Logos, and Ethos
During Kennedy’s speech he uses pathos, logos, and ethos. He also uses a lot of repetition such as “we” and “us” to make sure the people remember his speech. He shows a lot of emotion through his patriotism and hope for all citizens of the United States. He has several feelings such as pride and fear that will make the citizens feel they are in good hands. Kennedy uses adverse emotions when he says, “To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts 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 (Kennedy, 1961).” He tries to push people to get rid of those emotions. His use of pathos throughout his speech is important because emotion is used a lot in his speech. When Kennedy states, “So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate (Kennedy, 1961)” he includes everyone including other nations. Kennedy includes people from different backgrounds that makes him connect different people.
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An example of logos used in Kennedy’s speech is when he talks about the people living in huts and villages. He states, “To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts 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 (Kennedy, 1961).” In this example, he tells the people of the United States that we are not the only ones who are suffering. There are others who are suffering and have it worse and we are called to help those people. He explains that if we cannot help other people then how are we expected to help ourselves (Kennedy, 1961). Kennedy says we have the power and authority to make a change in our lives.
During Kennedy’s speech he uses a lot of ethos including credibility. He makes sure to tell the audience that they are in good hands (Kennedy, 1961). He uses bible verses in his speech to connect his point about opposing sides. He states, “Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free (Kennedy, 1961)." Kennedy understands that he is the president of the United States and a citizen of the United States and he is willing to do anything for his citizens freedom. He is willing to do what needs to be done to make the country better.
Overall, Kennedy uses ethos, logos, pathos, and repetition to get his point across. His speech to the citizens of the United States and the other nations lets them be involved in their country’s national issues. He ensures that the people of the United States are in good hands. His speech teaches others that working hard together will get you to your ultimate prize. Kennedy knows that freedom is important to the citizens of the United States so Americans must help to get to that goal. Kennedy’s Inaugural speech gave people hope and dared the people of the United States to not forget the day of his speech.
- John F. Kennedy. (2009, October 29). History.com.https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/john-f-kennedy (“John F. Kennedy,” 2009)
- Kennedy, J.F. (1961, January 20). John F. Kennedy Presidential Inaugural Address. American Rhetoric Top 100 Speeches. https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfkinaugural.htm (Kennedy, 1961)
- Kennedy, J.F. (n.d.). The Cold War. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/the-cold-war (“Kennedy, J.F.,” n.d.)
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