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The 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, in his first Inaugural Address, aims to inspire Americans by outlining his plans for the future as he is being sworn into office. Kennedy’s purpose is to gain the support of more Americans, considering that the 1960 election was a close call, and to promote peace worldwide. He adopts a hopeful tone in order to motivate Americans and citizens of other countries to work together in reforming the world that we live in. Although Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was one of the shortest, it is often considered one of the most powerful speeches in history. He expresses that freedom is an important subject to Americans and he wants them to know that he will provide that for them through his use of appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.
Kennedy begins his speech by addressing his audience; past presidents, vice president, and citizens. He appeals to ethos by stating, “for I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago”, and “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God” (Kennedy). By making these assurances, Kennedy is creating credibility for himself and gaining the trust of his audience.
Kennedy appeals to pathos with the use of parallelism. “That first revolution” is a parallel to this century, “tempered by war disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage” (Kennedy). These words are used to convince the audience that their help is needed in order to advance our country, and to prevent another war. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty” is a strong example of asyndeton due to the lack of conjunctions in the sentence. Kennedy is using it here to point out that the liberty of a nation is necessary for the liberty of individuals.
Finally, Kennedy employs logos by pledging to different groups in order to persuade the audience that they need to unite. He pledges to old allies, new states, people in huts and villages, our sister republics south of our border, the United Nations, and to the nations who would make themselves our adversary. By doing this, Kennedy attempts to prove that “civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof”. He continues by carefully placing anaphora, “let both sides” (Kennedy), which adds emphasis to his point that countries need to unite in order to succeed.
Kennedy expresses that freedom is an important subject to Americans through his use of appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. In between these rhetorical devices, he includes figurative language, such as asyndeton, parallelism, and anaphora. In order to keep their freedom, Americans must contribute towards it.
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