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June 26, 1963, post WWII, a time were the United States and the Soviet Union were the world’s superpowers. The two powers fought a war of different government and economic ideologies known as the Cold War. During the time of the speech, Germany was a nation split into Democratic West Germany and Communist East Germany, and the Berlin Wall was built to separate these two halves of Berlin and Germany. Furthermore, Western Berlin was in a state of turmoil, as the people suffered and began to lose all hope. Being that the U.S was an ally, John F. Kennedy went to West Germany to reiterate their support for the people of West Germany. Kennedy’s message was heard loud and clear throughout the world, as he wanted the world to see the problems Communism had caused in Berlin and the issues Communism itself causes. Kennedy managed to make a lasting impression through his eloquent use of numerous rhetorical devices and strategies.
Kennedy established as a well-respected character in the world. He was a Harvard alum, which proved his intelligence, and had proved his character and speaking abilities during previous issues. However, Kennedy still started his speech off by further establishing character to the German people through the use of ethos. Kennedy talks of how proud he is to come and speak in Berlin as the Mayor’s guest, showing that he truly is a humble man. When people can see that someone is humble, they tend to trust them more and will listen to what they say. Therefore, Kennedy further gained the trust, and the attention, of his audience through his display of modesty. After establishing his character, Kennedy proceeds to use a combination of pathos and logos to get his point across. He begins the body of his speech with the most impactful quote of the speech: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum”. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner”. The line incorporates both logical and pathological rhetoric.
The first boast that Kennedy says is Latin “I am a Roman citizen”; Kennedy forms an analogy in this line between Rome and Berlin, which is a strong form of logos. In its time, the Roman Empire was the greatest civilization in the world, and Rome was the greatest city. Romans were proud of their city and their country, so Kennedy is trying to convince the people that being German, and especially being someone from Berlin, is something to be proud about and tell the world. The pathos of the line comes from his use of the German language. Kennedy’s use of the German language to say “I am a Berliner” was intended to make the audience happy that Kennedy was embracing their native language, and thus sway the minds of the audience to back Kennedy. Through his blend of logos and pathos, Kennedy starts off on the right track to gaining the support of his German audience. Kennedy next proceeds to discuss the misconceptions of the world on the effectiveness of Communism. He attacks all of the people who believe things such as “Communism is the wave of the future” or “Communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress” and wants to show them how wrong their beliefs are. Kennedy simply responds, “Let them come to Berlin”, or the same thing but in German, “Lass’ sic nach Berlin kommen.” Berlin was the prime example of the conflict between Communism and Democracy.
The nation and the city were divided into the two halves and had completely damaged the lives of the people in Berlin. Kennedy wanted the world to come to Berlin and to see the problems that Communism had caused in the city so that they can see the issues that Communism itself causes. This whole argument is full of logos, as Kennedy is arguing against the belief that Communism is an acceptable form of government by showing the problems that it has caused for the people of Berlin. Kennedy was only in office for three years and his time in office included some of the most important and controversial issues in American history. Most of these issues were centered on the ongoing Cold War between America and the Soviet Union, and due to the large number of international problems that occurred, Kennedy gave many speeches in America and around the globe. He was a very gifted public speaker and excelled in the use of rhetoric in his speeches. His speech in West Berlin on June 26, 1963 is a prime example of the mastery of rhetoric that John F. Kennedy possessed. Therefore, I believe this speech was worthy of being placed amongst the world’s best.
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