John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was one of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century. He united almost the entire nation under a common goal; the Moon. His charisma could turn skeptics into believers, and strengthen the bond between himself and his supporters. He had so much charisma because he used many rhetorical devices in his speeches, the same rhetorical devices that have been wooing crowds of people since the time of Rome. One of his most memorable speeches he gave was at Rice University in 1962. In order to rally the support of the space program by the average United States citizen, Kennedy employs rhetorical devices, rhetorical appeals, and argument structure.

Kennedy uses many rhetorical devices in his speech. A poignant example of this is when he employs both denotative and connotative language to add emphasis. An example of him using denotative language can be seen in his sentence; “… F-1 rocket engines each as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined…” (Kennedy, 1962, p. 2). He knows his audience is made up of mostly engineers who would understand what the Saturn and F-1 boosters are, so he does not waste their time explaining the technical aspects of the engines. The audience would probably enjoy this, because it shows that Kennedy thinks highly of their intellect. Kennedy uses connotative language in his statement; “We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.” (Kennedy, 1962 p. 3). In this sentence, Kennedy connotes that the Russians are also having problems with their manned space program, even though they are reluctant to expose their failures to the public. Kennedy also uses connotative speech when he says; “Well space is...

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... contrast in order to show the different intentions of the Soviets, and the US. He feels the Soviets want to dominate mankind under the banner of Communism, but he wants to beat them to the Moon so that Democracy wins the race for dominance. He also uses chronological arguments in the beginning of his speech in order to demonstrate the evolution of technology in the US. This demonstrates how fast we are creating new technologies, and how that will effect our race against the Soviets.

Kennedy was among the great speakers throughout history. He was no Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address, nor was he Mark Antony giving the eulogy of Julius Caesar, but he did use the same tools of rhetoric developed and masterfully employed by these great men.


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