Rhetorical Analysis: John F. Kennedy Inaugural Speech
Former president, John F. Kennedy, in his famous 1961 inaugural address, illustrates a compelling vision for the future of the United States. Kennedy supports his idea by uniting his audience as one, emphasizing the importance of taking personal initiative in improving the state of the American nation. The speaker's purpose is to present himself as an emphatic yet strong national leader; he impresses upon the audience that, although there are significant changes taking place, the new generation of American citizens will continue to honor traditional values. Kennedy speaks in a formal and enlightening tone in order to appeal to feelings of national pride and unity in his audience. While the speech's respectful eloquence is appropriate for the occasion of an inauguration, its youthful energy and look to the future make it distinctly John F. Kennedy's.
Kennedy begins his inaugural address by expressing his feelings of utmost joy, not in emerging narrowly victorious in the presidential election but in being a citizen of a free country. In doing so, he appeals to ethos by presenting himself as an equal to the American citizens, rather than a domineering chief commander. Furthermore, he signals a major change taking effect, though the values practiced by their ancestors continue to live on. His use of the asyndeton "symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--symbolizing renewal as well as change" (pg. 52) serves to evoke feelings of a fresh start: the beginning of a new presidential term, yet a continuation of the cycle that has been sustained since the birth of America. Kennedy creates a tone of formality through the use of archaic diction, alluding to the "Almighty God" and "the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago" (pg. 52).
Kennedy proceeds to describe the extent to which the world has been transformed. Nevertheless, his powerful use of language invokes a sense...