Nov 24, 2014
JFK Rhetorical Analysis
A strong leader is one who can evoke a sense of security, inspiration, and idealism into their audience. To put it simply, John F. Kennedy was unquestionably somebody who could move a crowd. On January 20, 1961, this young leader was sworn in to office and gave one of the most memorable and moving speeches of all time. As with most inaugural addresses, strong rhetoric is used to persuade the audience about the speaker’s purpose in a confident and influential way. However, on this day, this speech was especially important to many of the American people. During this time of history, the fear of war was overwhelming with the threat of Communism, the Soviet Union, and racial tensions within the country. When the people were filled with doubt, they gladly welcomed the young, optimistic president to lead them to a better place. By using juxtaposition, anaphora, and rhetorical questions, Kennedy was able to successfully gain the popularity and support needed to implement the specific changes needed for a better world with regard to the United States’ domestic and foreign policies.
Having served in the Navy as a lieutenant for many years, Kennedy knew firsthand the meaning of sacrifice, commitment, and determination on behalf of one’s country. He wanted to ensure the citizens that the “American Dream” was still possible even with the threat of Communism lingering. “The world is very different now” as Kennedy stated, “For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” The very thought that a nuclear war could easily destroy our world was unbearable. Kennedy used juxtaposition to propose the idea that if humans have the power to kill, they also have the power to compromise with one another. For generations, the threat of nuclear war had been quite unsettling for many people. Due to that sustained fear, Kennedy was undoubtedly well liked especially by the younger, open-minded generation because of the confidence in his delivery, and in the people themselves. His youth and vigor sharply contrasted against former president, Dwight Eisenhower. Kennedy was the youngest president to ever take office, whereas seventy-year-old Eisenhower was the oldest man to leave the office. A Democrat was replacing a Republican. He appealed to liberals because they agreed with Kennedy’s belief of public service, and he appealed to conservatives who opposed government handouts. Using juxtaposition, he makes a point to compare the former warmonger state to the current war-weary public. America was in the middle of a war with Vietnam, so change is exactly what the Americans wanted. Kennedy’s optimism, and entrepreneurship showed that his differing contrasts were, in fact, for the better. In an effort to empower the people, he proclaimed that, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans---born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.” He wanted to make the point that they have already undergone this sort of thing before, and they are capable of handling the same task again. Kennedy’s promise not only succeeded in “signifying renewal as well as change”, but it symbolized “an end as well as a beginning,” of an era where doing the right thing was not uncommon. The use of juxtaposition placed a heavy emphasis on the purpose of his speech because he would see to it that “the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed,” would not be undone. Although the thought of change may be daunting to most people, the human existence would continue to suffer had Kennedy not given Americans the option of change through juxtaposition.
In addition to juxtaposition Kennedy used anaphora to contrast ideas and create unity. Kennedy points out alternative uses of power by stating that man, “holds in his