Rhetorical Analysis Of John F. Kennedy's Moral Address

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During a most critical moment in United States history, the first words from a young, incoming President Kennedy had to be nothing short of perfect. When Kennedy took office in January, 1961, America was deeply politically divided and at the height of the cold war. A new president, with much to prove, had to deliver a persuasive and unifying message to the American people. Equally important was that in addition to the American people, Kennedy would be indirectly addressing Soviet chairman Nikita Khrushchev, his Russian counterpart and primary adversary in the cold war. Although often better know for its artistry, John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address is also filled with classic rhetorical devices including antithesis, metaphor, and hyperbole…show more content…
Metaphor, in the simplest terms, is a figure of speech. This rhetorical device takes a word from its original context and uses it in another, exchanging literal meaning for non-literal imagery. Often metaphor uses words to make a picture in our mind that strongly emphasizes a point or idea. Kennedy used a powerful metaphor in his inaugural address when he said, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” To understand this metaphor we need to understand the context in which it was used. Ted Sorenson, Kennedy’s special council, speech writer, and co-author of the 1961 Inaugural Address explains that Kennedy wanted to make clear to Soviet chairman Nikita Khrushchev that America 's new leader was not intimidated by the threats of opposing communist nations. Sorenson shares insights on Kennedy’s motive for the “back of the tiger” line when he notes that, “while standing firm against any armed encroachment on freedom, he was seeking to tone down cold war rancor and tensions” (Sorenson). Kennedy used the image of riding on and being eaten by a dangerous tiger to communicate his opposition to communism and to send a message to other countries that might be tempted to adjoin themselves with larger communist countries in search of greater power. In this metaphor the tiger paints a picture of a dangerous political system and provides an image…show more content…
Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address is likely as famous and well respected as any other speech in modern American history. It is masterful in its structure and completely persuasive in its delivery. Kennedy used a host of rhetorical devices throughout his speech including antithesis, metaphor, and hyperbole to effectively persuade his audience to appreciate America’s strength, unity, and

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