John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech: Rhetorical Analysis
In 1961, John F. Kennedy delivered an inaugural speech of hope and inspiration. Kennedy intends to make an impression that in order to achieve peace within the world, we must unite to help each other in these hard times. In his speech, JFK used many rhetorical strategies to achieve his purpose of pressing his idea that unity as one population could promote the greater good of the world. He uses many examples of parallelism and the Aristotelian appeals to strengthen his argument of the urgence of unity.
Parallel structure is used to express two or more ideas that have the same level of importance. Kennedy uses parallelism to express his ideas of the actions the country needs to start doing together. JFK uses many examples of parallelism in his speech, the most impactful one being, “…we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” His use of parallelism here combines all the actions he is calling for.
Kennedy uses words like “we” and “let both sides” to show that the unity of people is the most important action to achieving the peace that we crave for the world. The use of parallelism helps him to describe his visions of change effectively. The repetition and parallel structure Kennedy uses makes the purpose of his speech easily impressionable.
Kennedy uses ethos to strengthen his argument. For example, he states, “with a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, 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.
” By referring to God, JFK expresses how his beliefs correspond with what he would really want for the world, and what would be morally correct in the concept of Christianity. He also uses pathos to appeal to the emotions of the audience. Kennedy brings to the audience’s attention that “…the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace…” He hopes that if citizens realize how badly the war has affected the world, they will want to unite to make a change. Kennedy uses logos by saying that unity will, “…not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days …nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” When the audience realizes that this is a common goal we can all work towards, they will make the world a better place.
Kennedy’s purpose of his speech was to challenge the nation to come together for change. In the inaugural speech, the president tried to inspire a new generation of Americans, not only to support him politically, but to rise to a new level of commitment to the nation as whole. In conclusion, Kennedy uses a variety of rhetorical strategies, including parallelism and the Aristotelian appeals, to project his idea that unity could further the betterment of the world.