Rhetorical Strategies in John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address

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In his prominent 1961 Inaugural Address, John F. Kennedy extensively employs pathos, parallelism, antithesis, and varied syntax to captivate millions of people, particularly to persuade them to stand together and attempt to further human rights for the “betterment” of the world. Kennedy’s effective use of various rhetorical styles succeeds in persuading his audience –the world and the U.S citizens—that his newly-seized position as the U.S. President will be worthwhile for all.
Evident throughout his entire address, Kennedy employs a cogent pathos appeal to keep his audience intrigued. This can be demonstrated when Kennedy initially proclaims: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…” who he urges to be “unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of…human rights to which this nation has always been committed…” (Kennedy). Kennedy’s usage of “we” rather than “I” gives the audience a sense that they exist as part of something big, perhaps a family, while portraying Kennedy as a people’s president who desires to be a “person in the crowd.” Throughout his address, Kennedy establishes pathos mainly by appealing to American patriotism, a significant concept during the Cold War period in which Americans needed a jingoistic spirit to succeed. By reminding his audience of their forefathers and instigating parallels between “the first revolution” and the present generation, “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage,” the president grasps the attention of the audience. He even stresses the value of liberty and this generation’s dedication to the survival of that value to rou...

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...very once in a while to maintain the formality of the speech and to convey imperative messages to his audience. Interchanging between the short sentences and the lengthy sentences grabs the audience’s full attention, permitting Kennedy to most persuade them that he qualifies for his position as U.S. President.
Hence, through various rhetorical strategies, Kennedy achieves his purpose of gaining the spectators’ favor through stressing major current events that concerned the American people. These significant concepts include American patriotism and American diplomacy, stressed when he begins four consequent paragraphs with the same recurring three words, “Let both sides.” Kennedy’s brilliant use of pathos, parallelism, antithesis, and varied syntax successfully convey his ambitions and hopes for America, as it makes Kennedy’s speech a very memorable one in history.

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