JFK Inaugural Address Rhetorical Analysis

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech was one of the most memorable and influential speeches in United States history. He delivered it on January 20, 1961, after taking the oath of office as the 35th President of the United States.

In the speech, Kennedy spoke about the need for all Americans to work together to improve the country. He also urged people to think about what they could do for their country, rather than what their country could do for them. Kennedy’s use of rhetoric was extremely effective in delivering his message and motivating people to action.

The citizens of the United States elected John F. Kennedy as the thirty-fifth President of the United States in one of the closest presidential elections in American history, after he beat Richard Nixon in 1968. On January 20, 1961, Kennedy’s address acknowledged that fear and anxiety had taken hold among people throughout the country.

The United States was in the throws of the Cold War, where many people were living in fear of nuclear warfare. In his speech, Kennedy touched on several points that related to the American people. He spoke about the need for change and how America needed to work together as one unit. He also stressed the importance of freedom and democracy. Overall, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech was very effective in terms of rhetoric.

The first point that John F. Kennedy addresses in his speech is the need for change. He begins by talking about how “the world is very different now” and that “this generation has had to face more complex and dangerous problems than any other generation in history” (Kennedy). He is trying to show the people that times have changed and that America needs to change with it. He talks about how the “old ways will not do” and that “it is time for us to take a new path” (Kennedy).

Kennedy is trying to appeal to the people by showing them that he is willing to make changes that are necessary. He is also trying to showthat he is a leader who is willing to take risks and innovate. This is an effective way of rhetoric because it speaks directly to the people and their concerns.

Kennedy uses repetition and rhetorical techniques to comfort the public’s mind while still maintaining a clear and compelling structure in his speech to Congress and the general public. To begin, Kennedy generates patriotism among Americans. His oration appeals sentimentally to individuals who believe the country is in danger.

By speaking to Congress, Kennedy also gains the trust of those who may question his abilities. Furthermore, Kennedy’s use of simple language and short sentences throughout the speech makes his message easier to follow. In turn, this allows for a greater understanding and appreciation of the content by the audience.

Next, Kennedy moves on to instill a sense of hope in the American people. He does so by painting a picture of a bright future, one in which all Americans can prosper. He also touches on the idea that together, we are stronger than we are apart. This sentiment is particularly relevant in today’s political climate.

By uniting Americans under a common cause, Kennedy gives us something to strive for. Finally, Kennedy closes with a call to action. He asks Americans to work together to make the world a better place. This is an important message, especially in light of recent events. By asking Americans to come together and work for change, Kennedy sets the tone for his presidency.

The quotation, as one of his most famous allusions, is “A penny saved is a penny earned.” In using an allusion, he says, “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same sacred oath our forefathers swore nearly a century and three-quarters ago.” Kennedy enthralls Americans by reminding them how far they’ve come and how much farther they can go with this statement.

The third rhetorical strategy John F. Kennedy employs in his inaugural speech is anaphora, the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. In using anaphora, Kennedy speaks to the American people and says, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

In addition, Kennedy also uses parallelism throughout his speech. Parallelism is defined as two or more corresponding and equivalent phrases or clauses. By using parallelism, Kennedy gives his speech a rhythmic and poetic flow. For example, he 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.”

Lastly, John F. Kennedy uses chiasmus in his inaugural speech. Chiasmus is a reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses. In using chiasmus, Kennedy says, “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”

He maintained an optimistic tone throughout, and his constant use of metaphors shows how the American people can “…forever break the bonds of mast misery…,” “…untie themselves from the chains of poverty…” For several paragraphs, Kennedys uses the phrase “let both sides.” In this instance, Kennedy emphasizes how much power a big group may have when they link arms and collaborate. 

He also uses asyndeton later in the speech to list several of America’s allies, and by omitting conjunctions between these names, Kennedy highlights the importance of each one.

Kennedy’s choice to use pathos is most prominent when he talks about how the United States has “…supported free peoples who struggle against tyranny…” He does this because he wants his audience to remember that even though the country has had its fair share of struggles, it has always come out on top in the end. This idea of a bright future despite past failures is reiterated with his use of logos when he states that America will pay any price and bear any burden in order to help other nations around the world that are in need.

In conclusion, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address is a masterful example of rhetoric. Through his use of repetition, simple language, and emotional appeals, Kennedy was able to connect with the American people and instill a sense of hope for the future. His speech remains an inspiration to us all.

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