The Message President John F. Kennedy Gave Us

Throughout history, America has faced many challenges, whether they are wars, rebellions, or civil right issues. When faced with a difficult task, a leader needs to step up and display a tremendous amount of heroism and bravery so others can follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, when President Eisenhower died one particular individual stepped up to serve and protect America to the best of his abilities. Our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, spoke not only to Americans, but all the other countries as well about peace and unity in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961. By utilizing a variety of rhetorical strategies in his speech such as repetition, parallelism, rhetorical questions, and chiasmus Kennedy wanted to bring peace and unity to the nation and promise a better America for the future.

Before Kennedy became president, many terrible things were happening not only in America, but also around the globe. Due to the Rosa Park’s actions, the injustices of racial segregation gained a lot more public attention. World War Two has ended so America was not doing too well socially, economically, and politically. Because of all the tensions from war, the Cold War has heated up in Europe too, causing Russia to hate the US even more, but on the other hand our Allies appreciated our help towards them. Despite all these hardships America and the rest of the world has faced, we fought through them together. By working as one, people and countries started to trust each other ever so slightly, which was enough to resolve issues in a more civil way.

Throughout the whole duration of John F. Kennedy’s speech, he demonstrates thoughts of unity to his fellow Americans. Some of the very first words Kennedy says are “we,” along with “you,” and “us,” which shows collaboration. Words like those show Americans collaboration because they are all plural pronouns; Kennedy is not greedy or self-centered and wants everyone else to become involved. He thinks and includes every American in his speech. By displaying great leadership he puts others before him. He wants the best not only for himself, but for America by stating, “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” By using words like “we,” “you,” and “us,” Kennedy tries to unify everyone together. If everyone is unified, then everyone would be one step closer to reaching peace on a national level.

Since John F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic president, he gained many supporters and voters. Knowing this, Kennedy utilizes religion to appeal to some of his fellow Americans in his inaugural address. He says,

“Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

In order for America to be great, Americans need to unite and work together in the interest of accomplishing tasks. God will not provide peace down upon the earth. It is the hard working humans that unite which will provide peace with one another. This is rhetorically significant because by utilizing religion, Americans should now feel like they have a vocation or call to do what is right, which is to bring peace. By referencing God, individuals may find the good in them in order to accomplish what is correct.

Kennedy also uses repetition in his speech in order to display his care for everyone. By constantly repeating the phrase “To those” in the start of each paragraph, he draws attention to old allies, new States, and, poor people living in huts and villages, showing Americans he acknowledges places of political importance but also places that normally are not mentioned in such an official address, like small villages or political enemies. He stresses the importance of helping and taking care of others, including the enemy. In order to try to make things right everyone needs to work together, including the enemy in order to be at peace.

Additionally, he begins the next set of paragraphs with the phrase “Let both sides” to address unity conflicts, precise proposals, wonderful discoveries of science, and unite to heed in all corners of the earth of Isaiah. Kennedy is trying to get rid of the negativity and hatred between countries. Constantly repeating “Let both sides” shows how their are plenty of things to improve upon. If both sides work together more efficiently, than their will be less problems to worry about. Repeating the phrase is effective towards Americans because it is important and more powerful to say more than one thing. By saying “Let both sides” multiple times, this emphasizes that there are many things America and its foes can work on in order to become united.

John F. Kennedy uses two rhetorical questions in his inaugural speech to make his audience feel included. Kennedy asks,

“Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?” and “Will you join in that historic effort?”

By including rhetorical questions in his inaugural address, it makes Americans think of the obvious answer and gives them easy access to become involved in the situation. Since Kennedy directly asks Americans rhetorical questions when they can easily assume the answers, they can truly feel like they impacted or played a role in the country they love. Furthermore rhetorical questions can also appeal to Americans logos. Thinking of smart and logical answers to Kennedy’s questions shows a sense of their involvement in the situation. His fellow Americans are not being lectured, but instead in a way feel like they are being talked to directly, like in a conversation. By making the audience think and connect to his vision, it makes his speech more unitable.

What makes John F. Kennedy’s speech about unity and peace is his use of chiasmus. His famous and well spoken words of,

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

He uses chiasmus at the end to make his speech more memorable with the inclusion of a poetic structure. By saying this, he wants every American to unite and contribute to America’s future. A listener could interpret that he does not want the low or middle class to rely on him or the government because he also mentions people should not ask things of their country. Kennedy uses chiasmus in his inaugural address to get two points across but puts more stress and emphasise on the second part. By putting more emphasis on the second part Americans know what was really important in his speech. If everyone consolidates with one another then so much more could be done like for example attaining peace. If everyone is peaceful with each other, then the country will be at peace.

Thinking about America’s future, John F. Kennedy uses logos to regain hope for unity amongst Americans. He states,

“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

In order to obtain full peace between one another, it will take some time. By starting slowly however, peace can and eventually will be a thing in the distant future, if everyone tries to make it happen. Furthermore, he says,

“Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”

Kennedy is thinking about technological, environmental, and medical advancement which could greatly benefit America’s future. Kenney is using logic to explain to his Americans that the future is near and will become better by providing examples of space exploration and finding ends to life threatening diseases. With such advancements, this could lead to a strong foundation to the start of peace nation wide.

John F. Kennedy uses ethos in his inaugural address by writing it himself, and along with comrade Theodor Sorensen. Because Kennedy is about to become the president of the United States, and Sorensen was an American lawyer, writer and presidential advisor, it provides Kennedy’s speech with a tremendous amount of credibility. Due to the high amount of credibility of these two individuals, millions of Americans will listen to what he has to say in his speech. He uses his persuasive speech to ensure his audience that they, and America are in great hands.

Kennedy’s strongest appeal is towards pathos in his speech. With his persuasive voice, he makes himself seem trustworthy no matter how difficult or outrage his proposal is. Kennedy was a religious person, so he referenced God in his speech by saying,

“The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

Some of Kennedy’s audience members are very religious, so they feel like they have a need to listen to him. He connects to their emotions more strongly through faith and hope and establishes his credibility as someone who understands their religion.

Additionally, he uses fear of war and communism to make Americans feel scared. Kennedy says,

“A struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself .”

Kennedy also explains,

“Both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.”

Kennedy is telling Americans that against other countries it is almost like a competition to see who will become the strongest. Only the strong survive, so Americans need to unite and become tough. If fear is put into them, then hopefully they would want to become more fervent not only against the allies but the enemy as well, like Russia. Despite putting fear in their emotions, Kennedy explains how countries can overcome war and communism, with peace and unity amongst one another. By putting fear into his audience Kennedy makes them scared, but then lightens their emotions by stating what they can do as a whole to overcome the evil.

In John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address he utilizes rhetorical devices such as repetition, parallelism, rhetorical questions, and chiasmus to inform Americans peace and unity is attainable and America will become better in the near future. His use of rhetorical devices seems to be extremely effective because till this day it is considered one of the most famous and memorable inaugural address given.The use of unity and peace, especially given what was going on during that time was crucial for Americans to here. It lifted their moral and brought them together.

Work Cited

Peters, Gerhard, and John T Woolley. “John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address — January 20, 1961.” The American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8032.

Nelson, Michael. “John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 5 June 2013, www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/sixties/essays/john-f-kennedy%E2%80%99s-inaugural-address.

“Postwar United States — American Memory Timeline- Classroom Presentation | Teacher Resources.” The Postwar United States, 1945–1968, Library of Congress , www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/postwar/.

Whittle, T.J. “How JFK’s Religion Changed American Public Life.” How JFK’s Religion Changed American Public Life, OnFaith , 21 July 2014, www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2013/11/25/how-jfks-religion-changed-american-public-life/30025.

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