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John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech Analysis

Introduction

John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President of the United States when the nation needed a strong leader with the capacity to overcome challenges posed by the Cold War and unrest in both Europe and the U.S. In his famous inaugural speech of 1961, Kennedy reinforced himself as a firm individual who was set to unite the Americans and their allies against struggles that affected humanity as a whole. He emphasized the importance of not dividing based on political party allegiance.

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While Kennedy was a Democrat, he claimed that he would serve the whole nation indifferent to who supported which party. Unlike previous presidents, John Kennedy did not express aggression toward Americans’ primary adversary, the Soviet Union. Instead, the new President shared his hope that these two great nations can restart their relationships from scratch and avoid mistakes that had been made previously. This paper will provide an analysis of Kennedy’s inaugural address and discuss the rhetoric used by the speaker in order to convince his audience.

Unifying the Country

Kennedy begins unifying the country at the very beginning of his speech without wasting time discussing other topics. He reminds citizens and politicians that the results of these Presidential elections are not a victory of Democrats or the loss of Republicans. Instead, both parties contributed to this outcome, which is ultimately the correct decision in terms of freedom of choice. Kennedy labels election results as the celebration of freedom and reminds American citizens that they are the successors of the first Americans who attained independence through revolution and swore that the nation would serve humanity and equality.

In other words, Americans should stop dividing and thereby creating more issues and instead focus on solving challenges that society faces. For instance, John Kennedy labels poverty as one of the most significant problems in the world. He also states that people have the capacity and resources to end poverty throughout the world, but because of misuse of these resources, more problems are created. Later in his address, Kennedy provides an example of such issues. Scientific progress achieved within the last several centuries could have been used to end global challenges but is instead being used to wage war and cause more poverty.

Unifying the Allies

Integration of the United States into world affairs is vital for solving global issues. John Kennedy, in his speech, states that countries that share the vision and core values of Americans will imminently receive support from the U.S. In particular, Kennedy believes the mission of the United Nations to be critical, and more money should be used for addressing poverty and economic development than military and wars.

No equality and growth are possible without ensuring the sovereignty of countries. Kennedy assures that the United States will do everything possible to help its neighbors in the Americas to protect their borders from foreign invasion in terms of both military aggression and other geopolitical techniques. When peace is guaranteed, the neighbors can utilize their resources in solving economic problems within their borders. When speaking of neighbors, Kennedy implicitly puts the primary focus on Mexicans, who have significant issues related to poverty. Also, he assures that the Western hemisphere will be under American protection and support.

Intentions Regarding Adversaries

The Cold War was at its height when Kennedy made his inaugural address. Understanding that an actual war may end the whole of humanity, Kennedy, unlike many other presidents, says that the United States must cooperate with the Soviet Union and reach a peaceful agreement. The president shares his concern about weapons that both nations possess and that any mistake can lead to the destruction of the planet.

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Therefore, Kennedy believes that adversaries must seek peace with each other and cooperate on the issues that affect all countries. The fear that humankind may end as a result of military confrontations, according to Kennedy, should be the primary motivation behind the change from an aggressive weapons race to peaceful negotiations. However, despite such intentions, the Soviet Union and the United States had many misunderstandings between each other. Namely, the Cuban Missile crisis almost began the nuclear war between these two nations.

Reinstatement of Government’s Capabilities

Toward the end of the speech, Kennedy starts speaking of the government and its responsibilities. The heavy use of “we” in the address indicates that Kennedy sees the government not as an entity that exists in isolation, but as an organization of the citizens of the United States. He asks Americans to stop demanding from the government and instead to think about how they can contribute to the achievement of common goals.

For instance, instead of thinking about how the government can assist in a particular situation, people must think of how they can help the government in pursuing a shared vision. In other words, Kennedy wants people to be active and care for the future of the nation. Also, Kennedy sends a message to all people around the world and requests them to collaborate with America for the good of humanity as a whole.

Kennedy’s Rhetoric

The content of the address is only one reason why the speech is influential and famous. Kennedy’s rhetoric applied in his inaugural address is comprised of many elements that contribute to effectiveness, persuasiveness, and clarity. The speech is effective in the sense that it is striking and poetic. To achieve this state, Kennedy used a variety of rhetorical elements, such as alliteration at the beginning of many sentences, anaphora, and inversion. To persuade his listeners, Kennedy uses a number of methods, including fear when he mentions the potential end of humanity, repetition of important ideas, and application of emotion-arousing words such as freedom and liberty. By contrasting ideas in sequential sentences, Kennedy yields clarity; it is known that objective outlook is reached only when there is empathy and comparison.

Conclusion

Kennedy’s inaugural address is considered to be one of the most famous speeches in the history of the United States. Despite serving only two years of his presidency before his death in 1963, Kennedy is known today as a remarkable president. He started leading the country during challenging times – the United States and the Soviet Union were in the middle of the Cold War, which may have ended with a nuclear war.

However, Kennedy’s intentions were to avoid conflict at all costs because it could end humanity and destroy the world. In his inaugural address, John shares his vision of the future of the U.S. domestic and foreign policies and asks citizens to be more active and contribute to the common cause. Kennedy’s rhetoric makes the speech persuasive, effective, concise, and emotional.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech Analysis'. 5 October.

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