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JFK’s Inaugural Address Essay

John F Kennedy delivered one of the finest speeches on January 20, 1961 after being sworn into office. His inauguration speech was so powerful that it captured the entire nation attention, and quotes from it are still remembered by people today. It is one of the finest speeches ever written. It provides a strong appeal to pathos, ethos and logos, and it is because of this that people who never heard the speech can quote lines from it. This speech was delivered on January 20th 1961; In Washington D.C. President Kennedy had narrowly won the popular vote by only two tenths to win over the former vice President and Republican Candidate Richard Nixon. Kennedy doesn’t actually use many statics or numbers to build ethos, but instead uses his credibility and affirming words to build credibility. Having been elected into office it is a safe assumption that he was already widely accepted as a credible source by this time. He also builds ethos in the way he holds himself and by his manner of speaking in a clear and annunciated way. Ethos is not built from a name only, but from the verbiage that JFK used masterfully.

He was well aware of the fact that not everyone supported him or his party, which is why he opens with “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom…” Who would not stand behind that? He then goes on to address opponents of his by stating, “We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom,” this is a way he ties in Pathos to his introduction; playing at the innate drive Americans have for freedom. He conveys a respect for other opinions and views; this can be a major way to build credibly when speaking to people who may not agree. He doesn’t use numbers to talk up his credibility but instead appeals to many groups, this a good use of Ethos, while also using multiple rhetorical devices at once. Kennedy establishes pathos primarily by appealing to American patriotism, an important concept during a period when a patriotic spirit was essential to success during the Cold War. He reminds his audience of their forefathers and finds parallels between “the first revolution” and the current generation, “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.”

He refers to the core American value of liberty and this generation’s dedication to the survival of that value. After promoting a patriotic spirit, Kennedy calls the nation to action; he needs the help and support of the American people if the United States is to help create a safer world. He appeals to the emotions of those who lost loved ones and inspires the country to act when he says, “The graces of young Americans who answered the call of service surround the globe.” Although a difficult task to undertake, Kennedy assures his audience that he has faith in their generation. Claiming he would never wish to be part of a different generation, he proclaims, “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

President Kennedy’s speech was built on a logical progression of thoughts. He progressed well chronologically, starting with a glimpse of the world today being different from that of old. Off of that he recounts patriotism of the Revolution, again using powerful language, “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.” He does this is a way that does not alienate or brag to our European allies, but in a way that Americans will stand with him and swell with patriotism. He goes on to address old allies and then new friends, the to the people who America has not yet had the chance to encounter. Lastly he addresses our enemies in a way that makes us seem strong and ready for any threat even if we do not want to use force, “We dare not tempt them with weakness.

For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.” He calls for a fresh start, an idea that was expected not to be taken seriously but shows a good nature. “Remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” The next logical jump he makes are to a list of his goals for his presidency, he knew that it would not be done in his presidency but he wanted to put a list of goals out there. In conclusion this essay was both powerful and eloquent. Its use of expressive and figurative language makes it a memorable speech. JFK uses his speech to communicate his commitment to the American public as well as the expected changes. His use of logos, ethos, and pathos makes it an incredible piece of writing.

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