On Friday, 20 January 1961 newly elected President John F. Kennedy delivered his Inauguration speech to the nation of America in the time of uncertainty and fear. Kennedy was the “youngest elected president and the first Roman Catholic president”. During this tumultuous time period the Cold War was at its peak and dangers of nuclear power were building .To ease the rising tensions building amongst the people Kennedy emphasizes optimism and idealism in his speech. In doing so, Kennedy hopes in “representing the United States as a force to be reckoned with while maintaining peaceful international relations with other countries”. While most don’t believe it had an impact, John F Kennedy’s speech helped America pull through one of its darkest times.
At the time President Kennedy had big shoes to fill. With rising pressure coming from separate nations due to nuclear power the people of America are worried now more than ever. Though with his charismatic ego and benevolent approach, Kennedy was determined to get his input through the people. In other words Kennedy was what America needed at the time, a savior. Not only that but with his dashing good looks and eloquent family he was to some extent a role model. This speech was somewhat typical of Kennedy compared to other speeches of his. Like Kennedys “City upon a Hill“speech he tends to appeal to the people, as seen when he says “We must always consider that we shall be a city upon a hill-the eyes of all people are upon us”. Kennedy is a credible speaker and this can be attributed due to the fact that he had been giving successful speeches throughout his presidential campaign that eventually persuaded people to vote for him and in due course win the presidential election.
Kennedy delivered his Inaugural Address before an audience of twenty thousand people and a televised audience of eighty million. The people of America were fearful because of the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It was a very volatile time in history, with the country not far removed from WW2 and the Korean War. Though Kennedy felt that it wasn’t just the people of America but the people of the world he should address. He asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the “common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself”. Kennedy’s main responsibility was to represent the nation of America as one that was strong and was able to maintain peaceful international relations. Though Kennedy is just truly attempting to emphasize optimism and idealism since the nation is in such panic and hysteria.
The focal point of Kennedy’s speech was the relationship between duty and power. This was highlighted with Kennedy’s vivid usage of juxtaposition. In the first part of the speech Kennedy states in the second passage, “…Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life”. This appeals to the idea of shifting towards peoples values and affluence. The use of tropes can also be spotted within the text.
Kennedy overemphasizes the strength of America by the use of hyperboles. By exaggerating and saying that America can “pay any price” or “bear any burden,” Kennedy generates a perception of pride in the reader for his or her country. One of the most famous lines ushered by Kennedy in his inaugural speech was the use of chiasmus when he says “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Kennedy’s use of ethos is attributed to much of this because of his trustworthiness and credibility as a speaker. This gives Kennedy authority since his use of rhetoric establishes him as a good character that can appeal to the public
Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was obviously much more than any regular speech given by a president in office. Kennedy’s commitment to insure freedom to countless civilians possibly encouraged him to “escalate the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam”. This is foreshadowing for what is to become the cold war and one of the” longest and costliest wars”. Although today Kennedy is remember more for his notoriety and assassination, many forget how big a mark his inaugural speech left upon the world. Kennedy envisioned and urged change for the better. Former president Harry S Truman told journalists that history would remember it as “One of the greatest speeches of all time”. If not for Kennedy’s speech, relations with America and other countries would be in turmoil and chaos. History is essential to why John F Kennedy and his inaugural speech in office were so influential to his administration and in turn the rest of the 20th century.
“John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989.” John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989. Bartleby Bookstore, 2 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. Antecelli, Nathan M. “Home.” Our Documents -. The Peoples Vote, 17 Mar. 2001. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. “USA Presidents.” USA-Presidents.Info. Ezoic, 2004. Web. 21 Dec. 2013. Mehltretter, Sandra M. “John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Inaugural Address” (20 January 1961).”John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Inaugural Address” (20 January 1961). The Pennsylvania State University, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2013.
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