Persuasive Analysis on John F. Kennedy
December 9, 2020
From the Bay of Pigs, to space race between U.S and Soviet Union, to Cold War conflicts, to assassinations; John F. Kennedy’s three years in office were one for the books. Throughout the early 20th century, America went through massive changes, both superb and nefarious. It was the beginning of a new era and America was finally resurrecting from WWII. John F. Kennedy was believed to be the hero of America or fairly known as the coming of the messiah. His plan was to step in office and introduce to our country a new precise method of fixing the Government and letting out the truth behind many closed doors. He was the uprising savior for the U.S until 1963 when he was unfortunately assassinated
John F. Kennedy was the 35th who served as president of the United States through 1961-1963. He was born in 1917 into a wealthy political family and served in the military for four years as a Lieutenant in the Navy. During World War II he earned a purple heart along with many other medals which is a metaphor to a high earned medal in the military branch for wounded soldiers. After leaving the military Kennedy went on to serve three terms in the House of Representatives, along with a term as U.S senator from 1953 to 1961. John F. Kennedy was popular due to his charm, good looks, and vitality. Kennedy was known for his inspiring speeches; rather than his legislative accomplishments because his speeches became his legacy. Kennedy further involved himself in the civil rights movement, however, most of the legislature he initiated did not become law during his presidency.
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. His assassination raised conspiracies and questions that are still being debated till this day. Some say the U.S government was behind his assassination or the mafia themselves. However, John F. Kennedy left this world as a hero for many and his legacy continues. After John F. Kennedy’s assassinations, his passing left as an asset for the legislatively astute Johnson. In order to honor Kennedy’s legacy, Johnson passed the biggest civil rights legislation in U.S history. For those generations of Americans, Kennedy’s death symbolized an end of a time of innocence and the rebirth of American history. Like Larson quoted, no matter what campaign tactics are used, most are similar in that they take time to attach a message with a charismatic individual (Larson 2013).
On January 20, 1961, Inauguration day, John F. Kennedy uses parallelism and repetition to make sure his speech resonated with his audience, and uses pathos to win over their emotions. It is very important that when a new president is inaugurated, that he gives a superb inaugural speech. This was the moment that Kennedy used to earn the trust of the entire half nation that did not vote for him. In his address he defines the type of nation that he believes America should be.
Kennedy starts using parallelism when tells his audience that instead of thinking of his inauguration as a victory, they should think of it as a symbol of freedom (Torgesen 2018). In Kennedy’s inauguration speech he states, “symbolizing an end as well as a beginning; signifying renewal, as well as change” (Kennedy). When people hear the word “change” we tend to look the other way because we would have to work in order to see change. However. John F. Kennedy, structures equal fairness by telling his audience the same thing just in different wording. Kennedy uses more parallelism stating “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” then he continued “My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” (Kennedy) This is one of his famous quotes that is still mentioned today. He tells the fellow Americans that there’s no “I” in “team”, so to come together as “one”, for the better or good in one’s individual’s life.
Throughout his Inauguration, Kennedy used repetition to persuade his new states, republics of the south, the United Nation, old allies and adversaries. By using repetition in the beginning of all his paragraphs, Kennedy had a higher chance of grabbing his audience’s attention. Kennedy’s speech became amicable, which his audience tended to realize and appreciate. In the second quarter of his speech he switches to personal pronouns. Every time Kennedy used “Both sides’, he referred to United States, and any other nation seeking to challenge the U.S. Kennedy makes his audience feel like they are all a team and allows the citizens of the U.S to feel like they are right next to him every step of the way. He reassures the United States that there is still good in all nations and that everything “we” are trying to achieve; the other nation is as well (Kennedy). By continuously referring to both sides, Kennedy allows the people to see the pattern, and to start drawing conclusions about the opposing side, letting them know that there is really no difference between both sides. Kennedy did not only use repetition for words, but for his proposals as well. In every part of his Inauguration speech, Kennedy repeated his proposals of freedom and peace. This was very valuable for his audience because they’ll carry that memory of Kennedy fighting for their freedom and peace. So, by using repetition and personal pronouns, Kennedy won the audience’s attention, and gave his Inauguration speech a powerful connotation.
Kennedy also uses pathos and the rule of liking to earn the nation’s trust and help them understand that he as well shares their same values. Like mentioned before, John F. Kennedy was a naturally charismatic being, and he liked connecting with other people. This gave Kennedy a great advantage with his speech because John F. Kennedy understood what the nation wanted, and by talking about certain accomplishments that the nation wanted, Kennedy was able to employ pathos into his speech through the rule of liking. The majority of America was not wealthy throughout this time so Kennedy appealed to their emotions when he said that as a free nation we can help “break the bonds of mass misery” (Torgesen 2018). This helped Kennedy draw a strong connection between the poor and the needy and with their struggles. Kennedy later states “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich” (Kennedy). In order to certify that Kennedy won over his audience emotions he stated that sentence directly to the poor and the rich. The rule of liking came into play when Kennedy shared similar values and beliefs, however since his audience was the entire country, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. Rather than sharing similar values with a half the nations he knew that the world wanted one thing and one thing only. Peace. Kennedy knew that, war, was the last thing in everyone’s mind and to gain their liking he introduced peace into his Inauguration speech. Like author Cialdini stated, another way requesters can manipulate similarity to increase liking and compliance is to claim that they have backgrounds and interests similar to our own (Cialdini 2009). By manipulating similarity into his audience, Kennedy succeeded in making peace seem possible, which was a huge arousal for his audience (Torgesen 2018). John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech was perhaps one of the most successful speeches given due to the connection he made with American citizens and with the help of some rhetorical devices.
John F. Kennedy entered office in 1961, amongst the mist of a Cold War crisis between the United States and the communist country, Soviet Union, now known as Russia. The Cold war began in 1955 and ended in 1975. It was known as political rivalry between which state was going to take the title of a “super state”. The main competition consisted of who could reach space first and who was capable of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The race to see who can reach space first was known as the “space race”. It was a Cold War competition between who can develop aerospace capabilities, including artificial satellites, unmanned space probes, and human spaceflight (Bay 2019). In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) acted as a federal agency with a primary desire for the development of civilian aerospace research. In 1962, John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice University in approval of the Apollo program. The main goal of this speech was to persuade his audience that going to the Moon was the next big step in mankind and beneficial to the United States. Kennedy succeeded in delivering this speech by using Aristotle’s Modes of Method, Ethos, Logos and Pathos.
John F. Kennedy commences his Moon speech with references to the location of where he’s giving the speech from in order to establish a bond with the audience. He then takes his audiences on an educational tour behind science in order for them to understand the importance of his goal. As Larson can agree, persuasion depends on a source of credibility and ethics. (Larson 2013). In his speech he uses ethos by stating the huge achievements America accomplished in just over a month spam. John F. Kennedy states, “Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight” (Kennedy). He ensures his audience that everybody took for granted the recent achievements that America mastered in. However, the main goal of this statement was to allow for his audience to understand that all these accomplishments were believed to be impossible or unworthy of, but now everyone uses them. Therefore, if the audience already knows the individual, he or she may have a reputation for being honest and experienced (Larson 2013). In this case that certain individual would be Kennedy and his reputation would be the accomplishments he stated.
Kennedy as well introduces logos in his moon speech. Larson says, “Logos appeals to the intellect, or to the rational side of humans” (Larson 2013). Kennedy had to draw some sort of connection to his audience between factual knowledge and going to space. He stated, “But if I were to say, my fellow citizens,… a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch…25,000 miles per hour.” (Kennedy). This quote demonstrates all the technical difficulties related to the Saturn V rocket because in order to keep the trust of his audience Kennedy knew he had to be honest and tell the truth. However, he kept the facts minimal and simple. His analogy with the comparison of the height of the rocket to the length of a football field gives visual and a clear understanding behind the facts behind the rocket. His second analogy compares cigarettes and the U.S budget yearly. Kennedy quoted, “That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year.” (Kennedy). Even though smoking was very common in the 1960s, Kennedy wanted to remind his audience by using statistics and figures on the dangers of tobacco and how much the U.S spends on them. He uses that comparison to back up his main goal of reaching the moon, rather spending over five million on cigarettes. He uses this sentence to bring the matter of priorities into their own hands, rather than letting his opponents beat the United States.
Towards the end of Kennedy’s moon speech, he starts to sum up the last few sentences by using a number of techniques. The first two are pathos and emotive language, Kennedy refers to himself and the audience as “we”. He doesn’t want to leave out U.S citizens in his journey of reaching space so he makes sure everybody is playing a part in his expedition to space and the great venture will need everybody’s contributions. Another way in which the speech appeals to emotions is through the use of imagery. Kennedy uses imagery and emotive language when he mentions, “Only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.” (Kennedy). This quote is explaining that by losing leadership and not commencing on this journey, the U.S will lose peace within each other and lose the space race from their opponents. Kennedy then continued on by saying, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things… our energies and skills.” (Kennedy). This sentence is supported by the use of repetition and us vs. them. John F. Kennedy concludes his moon speech by indicating to the American people that if it’s not, “we”, the U.S, then it will be their opponent who wins the space race and perhaps many more other accomplishments. By doing this, Kennedy sets a powerful tone of emotion into his audience and commitment. (Bay 2019)
Ich Bin Ein Berliner Speech
On June 26, 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave his famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin, “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” meaning “I am also a citizen of Berlin”. Throughout this time right after WWII, the Soviet Union and the United States were having conflicts in Germany, to see who would regain the land of Germany and turn it into a democracy state or communist state. The Soviet’s along with East Germany made their first move in building the Berlin wall in order to completely stop food supplies and energy supplies from flowing into West Germany. In response to this action, the allied nations flew into West Germany to deliver the same supplies that were cut off.
The main purpose of Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech was to underline the support of the United States for West Germany 22 months after the Soviet’s first move. His message was aimed as much at the Soviets as it was at Berliners (Mueck 2012). From the start of his speech, Kennedy successfully executed a connection to his German audience through the use of sympathy. Kennedy quotes, “I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor… will come again if ever needed.” (Kennedy). First, he calls himself a “guest” because he doesn’t want his audience to feel like he’s in the position of authority to start calling commands. Then he sets his hosts apart by calling them “distinguished”, and mentions a personified figure of trust with General Clay (Mueck 2012). Kennedy then moves along with the next paragraph using metaphor. Kennedy exclaims, “Two thousand years ago, 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.” (Kennedy). The metaphor “world of freedom” is rhetorical here because Kennedy knows that his audience, West Berliners, are being captive while the majority of the world is free. In other words, “We are free, you are not!” (Mueck 2012). Metaphor is used again when Kennedy appeals to the greater good, “You live in a defended island of freedom… beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind” (Kennedy). In this sentence, Kennedy states that this movement isn’t just about Berlin nor Germany but about all mankind. In simpler words, if the communist party continues to grow and take over, it can become a bigger problem for all mankind.
Towards the ending of John F. Kennedy’s speech, he concludes his speech with some final persuasive techniques to leave his audience profound. His last few sentences conclude with him reassuring the people of West Berlin freedom and letting them know who is right and who is wrong. He uses polysyndeton when making his point clear about West Berlin being the good side and the communist party being the bad side. He quotes, “I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope, and the determination of the city of West Berlin” (Kennedy). At this point Kennedy compliments his audience by allowing them to trust his help. He completes his speech by promising freedom, peace, and the end of slavery in West Berlin. President Kennedy concludes his speech by stating, “Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.” (Kennedy). In this sentence, President Kennedy once again uses ethos because he is the acting as the spokesman of a nation that suffered from slavery, which gives Kennedy creditability since he knows what he is referring to. Lastly, the use of Oxymoron is described when Kennedy explains the feeling of freedom as a “sober satisfaction” and his transition from eighteen years to “almost two decades” (Muck 2012).
John F. Kennedy was an exceptional president. He established enormous goals, two of them being, getting the United States out of recession, and avoiding nuclear war. However, his great reign as President of the United States of America all started with his inauguration address (Torgesen 2018). In his inauguration address he utilized three main rhetorical strategies: parallelism, repetition, and pathos. By putting these three strategies into effect, Kennedy transpired a wide variety of trust among the majority of the United States. Doing so, he eventually succeeded in persuading the American people into constructing a new and stronger foundation for the U.S.
When John F. Kennedy announced his moon speech in front of a crowd that had over 200 audience’s, he projected the rule of authority to his audience. Even though Kennedy had a script in front of him, he avoided reading off the script and instead focused on making eye contact with his audience. This ideal method worked amazingly because it was a speaking rhythm for projecting authority (Bay 2019). Not only did its project authority but it was a flattery technique. Yes, he verbally complimented his audience, however, Kennedy as well complimented his audience through eye contact because he made them feel like his #1 priority rather than just reading off the script. Also, it provided plenty of time for the audience to soak up the speech as it was being delivered. Throughout the speech, specific emphasis was being given to key words, such as, “doing it right and doing it first.” (Bay 2019). This allowed his audience to feel his speech at another level.
Throughout John F. Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech used the rule of commitment and the rule of unity to signify the importance of his wording to people of Berlin. In order to get them to trust him and to rise up as one, Kennedy had to stay committed to his promise and stand on their side to unite as a team. He aided them with supplies and promised their freedom, which is the one and only thing that the people of Berlin wanted after coming out of the war. They were tired of being held at someone’s authority so they looked at Kennedy as the messiah and favorited him.
John F. Kennedy was a great President, war hero, and charismatic man who used his brilliance and charm to persuade his audience or followers towards a sense of belongingness. On November 22, 1963 Kennedy was assassinated and the world was left in shock. As Kennedy was being buried, conspiracies were being lifted. John F. Kennedy carried out many early accomplishments for the United States and was considered to be the savior that was going to change mankind.
Bay, F., & Kemei, R. (2019). An analysis of John F Kennedy’s Moon speech. https://www.speaktolead.co.uk/an-analysis-of-john-f-kennedys-moon-speech/
Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence Science and Practice (5th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc.
Compton, D. (2016). John F. Kennedy’s Presidency. https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-was-john-f-kennedy-trying-persuade-audience-646345
France-Presse, A. (2013). The poetry, persuasion of JFK’s speeches. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/529575/the-poetry-persuasion-of-jfks-speeches
John F. Kennedy claims solidarity with the people of Berlin. (2009). https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/kennedy-claims-solidarity-with-the-people-of-berlin
John F. Kennedy – Facts, Information and History on the Life of the 35th U.S. President. (n.d.). https://www.historynet.com/john-f-kennedy
Larson, C. U. (2013). Persuasion Reception and Responsibility (13th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Mayo, C. (2008). John F. Kennedy’s Persuasive Techniques: “After”. https://caitlinmayo.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/john-f-kennedys-persuasive-techniques-after/
Mueck, F. (2012). Ich Bin Ein Berliner – Speech Analysis. https://www.florianmueck.com/2012/04/22/ich-bin-ein-berliner-speech-analysis/
Torgesen, C. (2018). Rhetorical Analysis of Kennedy’s Inauguration Address. https://firstname.lastname@example.org/rhetorical-analysis-of-kennedys-inauguration-address-36e01e22d6d9
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