A Speech of Passion and a New Beginning of Peace: John F. Kennedy “Inaugural Address Speech”On January 20, 1961 John F. Kennedy made an outstanding speech after being sworn in office. John F. Kennedy is the second youngest president after Theodore Roosevelt who was elect as president in 1961 and had made one of the greatest speeches that have been caught and seen by many nations. This fourteen-minute speech of President John F. Kennedy has given a powerful appealed on Logos, Ethos, and Pathos to his audience. The main purpose of this speech is that the president wanted what is best for his country and full filling his fellow Americans dream. Here, the president presented his dream with great credibility using claim and support, as well as great encouragement and inspiration to America and the world that soon would be change. The Inaugural Speech has a lot of meaning and purpose, but most essential the speech was to inform and inspired America society to help them get involved with their country. In additional, President Kennedy tried to unify American people together in order to achieve peace.
The Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy is considered one of the greatest speeches in twentieth?century American public address. Communication scholars have ranked the speech second in a list of the hundred “top speeches” of the twentieth century based on its impact and artistry. It is famous for its eloquence and for its call to duty: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country (26). The young president spoke to the nation after a close, divisive election, and at a time when the American people were growing increasingly fearful of a long, drawn?out cold war. Yet instead of reassuring his audience by minimizing the dangers, Kennedy warned of a long, difficult struggle, emphasized differences between the United States and its enemies, and outlined the specific responsibilities and obligations of the United States and its citizens.
President Kennedy’s inaugural speech addressed not only the American people, but also people throughout the world—including newly independent nations, old allies, and the Soviet Union.
Against a backdrop of deep snow and sunshine, more than twenty thousand people huddled in 20-degree temperatures on the east front of the Capitol to witness the event. Kennedy, having removed his topcoat and projecting both youth and vigor, delivered what has become a landmark inaugural address.
Cold War rhetoric had dominated the 1960 presidential campaign. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon both pledged to strengthen American military forces and promised a tough stance against the Soviet Union and international communism. Kennedy warned of the Soviet’s growing arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles and pledged to
revitalize American nuclear forces. He also criticized the Eisenhower administration for
permitting the establishment of a pro—Soviet government in Cuba.
Kennedy had won the 1960 election with only 49.7 percent of the popular vote, yet a Gallup poll taken soon after his inauguration showed him with an approval rating of 72 percent. His own pollster, Lou Harris, put it at an astounding 92 percent. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, perhaps hoping for similar ratings, have paraphrased lines from Kennedy’s speech in their own inaugural addresses.
Having won the election by one of the smallest popular vote margins in history, Kennedy wanted
his address to inspire the nation and send a message abroad signalling the challenges of the Cold
War and his hope for peace in the nuclear age. He also wanted to be brief. As he’d remarked to
his close advisor, Ted Sorensen, “I don’t want people to think I’m a windbag.”
Historians of the cold war and biographers of Kennedy agree about the quality and
significance of the speech.
Kennedy revised his inaugural in Palm Beach, without the assistance of the focus groups or
speechwriting teams that have become de rigueur. He read it aloud to his wife, rewrote some
passages on sheets of yellow legal paper and consulted with Ted Sorensen. He did not need
much help revising his dictation because it was essentially autobiographical. It told his story, and
that of his generation: “born in this century,” “tempered by war,” “disciplined by a hard and bitter
Kennedy had a strong emotional connection with the passages inspired by his own experiences.
Throughout his political career he had sometimes choked up at Memorial Day and Veterans Day
ceremonies when speaking about those who had lost their lives in World War II. Among the
passages he had dictated on the flight was this one: “Since this country was founded, each
generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The
graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.”
These two sentences, a tribute to their sacrifices, would prove to be the emotional turning point
of his inaugural, the moment when his voice assumed a passion he seldom revealed, inspiring the
audience at the Capitol, touching even the hearts of his opponents, and, according to accounts
from the time, sending half-frozen tears rolling down cheeks.
The tradition of the presidential inaugural address in the United States is well established. Inaugural addresses typically aim to unify the nation and provide a vision for the future. They are supposed to be eloquent and pleasing to the ear. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was certainly a well?crafted speech stylistically, and that alone may account for some of its fame. Yet there was much more to the speech than its stylistic eloquence. Kennedy’s speech also created a bolder vision for American foreign policy, a vision that raised the stakes of cold war competition and foreshadowed decades of diplomatic, economic, and even military action to support and defend freedom and liberty around the world.
It was Kennedy’s life – and his close calls with death – that gave the speech its power and urgency.
Those who study the speech would do well to pay less attention to the words and more attention
to how he wrote the speech and to the relationship between its words and Kennedy’s character
In some ways, the longer?term legacy of Kennedy’s speech was even more positive than the immediate reactions. Kennedy’s vision of improving the lives of people around the world inspired many young Americans to dedicate their lives to public service. Heeding Kennedy’s call to fight against the “enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself” (22), many joined efforts to fight poverty and despair in America’s inner cities and rural areas. Others went overseas as part of the Peace Corps’ effort to “help foreign countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower. “By the end of Kennedy’s presidency, more than 7,000 mostly young Americans were “in the field,” bringing both material aid and “democratic cooperation” to poor, underdeveloped countries around the world.
Many Americans, including some who later rose to political prominence, were personally inspired by Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. Donna Shalala, who later served as President Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, watched the inaugural on the television in her college dormitory and was “inspired to pursue a career in public service.” She graduated college, became a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, and would later serve as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin before joining Clinton’s cabinet.The night after Kennedy’s address, James Meredith, an African?American Air Force veteran, was inspired to apply for admission to the all?white University of Mississippi. In 1963, Kennedy would order thousands of U.S. Army troops to the UM campus to protect the young man inspired by his words.
Kennedy was praised by the literary community as well. Novelist Carson McCullers wrote to the White House, saying, “I think that I have never been moved by words more than I was by your inaugural address.” Writer Eudora Welty wrote that after hearing the speech, she had felt “a surge of hope about life in general.” John Steinbeck observed that Kennedy’s words were “nobly conceived and excellently written and delivered. “Others dedicating their lives to Kennedy’s New Frontier program included researchers and inventors who created exciting new innovations in science and technology. Rosemary Dew, one of the first female FBI Special Agents, opened her memoir by recounting how she was “inspired by John F. Kennedy and hoped to make a difference in the world. Kennedy’s challenge—’Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’—affected me deeply . . . I wanted to serve my country. “Clearly, the “new generation” connected to the young president’s words and seemed to welcome the challenge to “light the world” with the fire of American principles and ideals (25)
“Ask not what your country do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country”. These words of President John F. Kennedy inspired a generation of Americans to seek to better the lives of people in this country and of the world. It was the foundation of the Peace Corps, it helped bring young college students down to southern states to fight for desegregation.
Having won the election by one of the smallest popular vote margins in history, Kennedy had known the great importance of this speech. Following his inaugural address, nearly seventy-five percent of Americans expressed approval of President Kennedy.