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JFK Inaugural Address Analysis

After being elected as the President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy gave the Inaugural address speech that put him in the spotlight and allowed him to be accepted by most American citizens. He used a variety of techniques to achieve his goal of unification of the nation and himself. The use of rhetorical devices, logos, pathos and ethos and lastly, his delivery helped solidify his speech to persuade the American nation to accept him as their new leader. The core of his speech was based on grabbing the audience’s attention and creating strong emotions through the use of linguistic features. His main technique was to exemplify what the future will be like while comparing it to the past.

The use of several rhetorical techniques such as declarative sentences and strong verbs show his persistence as a President and leader; furthermore, it creates a trust relationship between him and the audience, who is convinced by his strength and determination. He states, “I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it”. The frequent repetition of short declarative sentences suggests that he will carry on and achieve what he is promising. John F. Kennedy’s speech is worldwide known for the quote, “ Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’’. Contradictory sentences expose the problem first, which intends to intrigue the audience; the orator later proposes a solution for the problem in the same sentence. The diction is sophisticated, although in a most basic way, to allow the audience to understand his speech fully.

Establishing credibility, otherwise known as the ethos is the first persuasive technique that JFK uses, “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.” This line demonstrates his full understanding of his responsibility towards the American people. The use of formal diction evokes national pride and respect, especially about past Americans as “forebears”. During his opening line, he addresses many prestigious government figures by ending with fellow citizens. Throughout the whole length of the speech, JFK creates an impact on the audience’s emotions, tying himself to them, identifying with them by using pronouns such as “we”, “our”. Lastly, to build his ethos, Kennedy promises the world that he will do everything possible to maximize and guarantee freedom for every nation.

Kennedy also uses pathos to create an emotional appeal to his speech as well as to himself. By stating that our hands have the ability and the power of destruction but can also solve problems, he plants a seed in the audience’s mind making them believe that they decide the future of their country. Being elected after World War II, he relies on the nation’s fear of the atomic weapon to convince them that he will protect them from war. He will protect them from “the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science”. This technique is very effective to involve his audience emotionally and push them to action, to vote for him. The public is convinced that the new President will serve their best interest to avoid further damage because of the mass destructive war weapon.

Kennedy builds his logos throughout the speech mainly by repetition of his desire to set nations free and unite these free nations to prevent the spread of communism. Furthermore, he presents negotiating as a positive and civilized tool towards progression of economic and social and political factors for the peaceful and well functioning of the country. By doing so, he obscures the existing violence involved in achieving his goals for the United States. Furthermore, John F. Kennedy uses comparison as a rhetorical tool to call out to the public to join him in freeing other nations under communist rule. An anaphora was used to create logic in the development of the speech. Using the same beginning for a sequence of sentences makes it easier for the audience to understand the message and the plans he has. He first exposes the problem and then provides a solution that, evidently, requires the participation of the citizens.

The speech was broadcasted all over the United States, on television and the radio; therefore, the delivery of the speech was just as essential as the content. Kennedy used hand gestures and eye contact with his audience to be more persuasive and well received by the large audience. His voice gets louder, and his body more opened up when he mentions himself and how he will help the United States of America, and he will be a responsible and faithful President. This indicates his confidence and willpower; he is willing to give “everything he has” to be accepted and followed. For instance, when he mentions different groups of people such as “those new states”, “those people in the huts and villages”, he makes eye contact and creates a feeling of acknowledgement for the audience.

Overall, Kennedy presented a powerful speech that caught the nation’s attention and incited them to offer their trust to President Kennedy in return for a peaceful and successful society. Using rhetorical devices such as the linguistic features that include anaphora, repetition, metaphors, use of pronouns to involve the citizens and unite them helped build a stronger speech. Although, the strength is mostly accomplished by using ethos, logos and pathos that is made up of rhetorical techniques. By delivering a logical, emotionally appealing and credible speech in a determined and confident manner, John Fitzgerald Kennedy obtained the approval of seventy-five per cent of Americans.

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