John Fitzgerald Kennedy is credited as being one of America’s greatest speakers. That is why, when asked to choose a speech to do a rhetorical analysis on from the Top 100 American Speeches on www.americanrhetoric.com, I had to choose his “Inaugural Address” from January 20, 1961. This speech is ranked second, under Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream.” President Kennedy utilized many of the tools typically used in rhetorical or persuasive writing. He took full advantage of Aristotle’s three areas of rhetorical speech writing: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, paired along with other literary tools such as repetition, rhythm, and comparison.
President Kennedy opens his speech by establishing credibility, or ethos, “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.(Americanrhetoric.com)” This excerpt tells the American people that he has followed the rules and has a legitimate responsibility to the American public as did the Presidents in the past. He is official.
Then, a few moments later, JFK begins to capitalize on the emotions of the people, tying himself to them, identifying with them by using words such as “we.” This is the pathos part of his speech, “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. (americanrhetoric.com)” Throughout Kennedy’s speech he uses emotionally charged words to draw in the American public and get them to relate to the topics at hand.
He also uses Aristotle’s logos, or logic, to convince the people, “we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not...
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