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Rhetorical Analysis of Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

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A newly elected president in America will typically address their goals during their inauguration ceremony. John F. Kennedy arguably gave one of the most compelling Inaugural Addresses in history. He effectively achieves his purpose by the end of his speech. Kennedy strives towards advocating unity throughout the country. John F. Kennedy approaches his Inaugural Address with the intent to unify the country through his use of anaphora, asyndeton, and metaphors.

President Kennedy’s use of anaphora is effective in uniting the United States of America. Anaphora is shown when he says, “not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are,” (Kennedy, 54). Kennedy repeats in the beginning of each phrase, “not as a call to”, in order to gather all Americans; he tells the world that they are prepared for any war or hardship because they have the strength of unity on their side. President Kennedy effectively achieves his purpose by using anaphora to accost American citizens that in order for the United States to overcome any problem, the people first need to join hands. Anaphora is used in a series of consecutive paragraphs. In paragraphs sixteen to nineteen, each repeat at the beginning, “let both sides”.

This use of anaphora uses the word, “let”, in order to give a less aggressive tone and call people to action. The repetition of the words, “both sides”, refers to the divided United States. When Kennedy repeats the words, “let both sides”, it helps to achieve his purpose by emphasizing how important it is for the country to unite in order to move ahead. Kennedy uses anaphora when he says, “ let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth,” (Kennedy, 53). By saying this, Kennedy effectively advocates unity by telling all citizens of the U.S that they have the strength to overpower any burden when everyone is on the same page.

Kennedy’s use of asyndeton is just as effective in uniting the country as anaphora. Asyndeton gets Kennedy’s credence across that unity is the most important priority among Americans. Newly elected president Kennedy says,
“the energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serves it,” (Kennedy, 54). His use of asyndeton links, “energy”, “faith”, and “devotion” all together. He achieves his goal of unity, by showing how it is going to take a group effort- American citizens- to positively reform the United States. Kennedy shows that the fate of America is in the people’s hands as a whole.

By having the country work hard towards unity and putting their confidence in Kennedy as President, he tells Americans that they will be able to begin anew. Together as fellow Americans, “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,” (Kennedy, 52). This is effective in supporting Kennedy’s vision of overall unity by using the word “we” to represent the people, and then following it by listing what they all will conquer together when America is finally unified. His overt statement summarily clears up that the United States will accomplish everything as one.

Equally important, metaphors help to achieve Kennedy’s overall purpose of unity. Kennedy hints that even if all the states don’t embrace his proposals, he would hope that the states would fight for their own ideals. He lets the states know, “to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside,” (Kennedy, 52). In this quote, “those who foolishly sought power,” represents past leaders; and “the back of the tiger” represents American citizens. In addition, past leaders who thrived off of the burdens of American citizens ended up engulfed in the problems of a divided nation, bearing burdens of their own.

By adding this metaphor to his Inaugural Address, Kennedy effectively achieves his goal of unity by showing that if the government and the people are on the same page, then America will be balanced and at peace. In hopes of unity in the future, “this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house,” (Kennedy, 53).

The, “peaceful revolution of hope”, represents Kennedy’s idea of a united America; and the, “prey of hostile powers”, represents negative comments from other countries, people, etc; and, “master of its own house”, represents America maintaining what’s rightfully theirs. This metaphor is important in exemplifying Kennedy’s overall purpose because it shows how America’s sense of unity will drive them to be able to maintain their own ideals and not allow any other “hostile power’s” criticism to change their views.

John F. Kennedy gave one of the most inspirational speeches of all time. Kennedy expresses his goals for Americas future throughout his Inaugural Address. He strives towards uniting the American people. During this time period, unity was key in order to be a successful country. Kennedy achieves his purpose by incorporating effective rhetorical strategies such as, anaphora, asyndeton, and metaphors.

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