An Analysis of John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address Essay

An Analysis of John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address Essay

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At the height of the Cold War, racial tensions in the United States were also reaching a breaking point. This era brought with it many of the seminal events in civil-rights history: the start of the Freedom Rides in 1961, the University of Mississippi’s admission of its first black student, and the Birmingham riots of 1963. While America struggled with the ever-present threat of nuclear war, this other kind of conflict threatened to undermine and demoralize America from within.
It is 11 June, 1963, and the Alabama National Guardsmen are called to the University of Alabama to ensure the safe admission of two black students. That same afternoon, John F. Kennedy addresses the nation in an attempt to sooth flared tempers on both sides of the debate. Despite the limited time for preparation, “… it was one of his best speeches–a heartfelt appeal in behalf of a moral cause that included several memorable lines calling upon the country to honor its finest traditions” (Dallek). Indeed, part of this heartfelt spirit is likely derived from the relative spontaneity of the speech. Nevertheless, Kennedy is well-recognized as skilled in his use of language (Renehan), and purposefully employs several methods to create his appeals.
In his “Civil Rights Address,” he speaks mainly of the responsibility of Americans, their duty to ensure the freedom and equality of all American citizens. Through allusion he stresses the hollowness of freedom in a culture of segregation. He uses an authoritative tone, but also uses diction that emphasizes his status as a like citizen. He lets his presidency work in the minds of his audience to influence them. He refers to documents that the audience, especially at the time, would consider sacred and important. Hi...


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...ave not been diminished by time. The United States has since made important reforms and changes under the power of the civil rights movement. There will always be more to accomplish, but equality in America will never again be a secondary issue. The measure of a nation's compassion continues to lie in how its citizens are treated.


Works Cited

Dallek, Robert. "President John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Quandary." HistoryNet. Weider History Group, 2010. Web. 19 Oct. 2010.
"John F. Kennedy -- Civil Rights Addess." American Rhetoric. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.
New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. BibleGateway. Web. 23 Oct. 2010.
Renehan, Edward J., Jr. "JFK Wrote His Own 'ask Not' Speech / Thurston Clarke Debunks Myth That It Was Written by Assistant Ted Sorenson." SFGate. Hearst Communications Inc., Oct. 2004. Web. 19 Oct. 2010.

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