What made JFK's Inaugural Address so effective?
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If anyone ever tells you that speeches don't make a difference, point them at JFK's Inaugural Address. After winning the Presidential election by one of the smallest margins in history, he received a 75% approval rating from the American public the following day, something most of today's politicians would kill for. The fact that so much of it is still remembered today is an indication of just how powerful his words were. People still debate today who wrote most of the speech - President Kennedy himself or his speechwriter Ted Sorensen - so perhaps we should just agree to look at it as a team effort.
I think there are 4 main reasons it's been so critically acclaimed. 1. Simplicity
Like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill before him, JFK never used a $10 word when a 10 cent one would do the job just as well. He was a master of simple, plain speaking, which is apparent if we take the penultimate paragraph as being characteristic of the speech as a whole:
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
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