JFK Inaugural Speech

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Research Assessment Task – “Speeches Through the Ages”
Rhetorical Analysis:
A comparative analysis of both John F. Kennedy’s (JFK) Inaugural Speech (1961) and Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention Speech (2004) investigates the similarities and differences in the linguistic styles employed to address the American public ‘through the ages’. Both speeches create unity by addressing the audience as, ‘we’ and ‘us’. This is an appeal to pathos as it reduces the distance between the president and the public. The speech becomes far less imposing and turns into an inspirational conversation. This is also useful in appealing to nationalism (natos) which plays on emotions. By creating unity, the American public feels it is their duty to do what
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This technique builds logos and pathos as it solidifies the strength of the argument presented by the respective president. For example, Obama uses a negative-positive restatement when he says, “There is not a black America and a white America…” ("Repetition", 2013). Obama uses this technique to demonstrate the argument from an opposing perspective. He also repeatedly uses ‘America’ as a symbol to enforce that America is one.
Similarly, JFK repeats his famous ‘ask not’ line to subsequently address all ‘citizens of the world’. In essence, both presidents could deliver the same message in a succinct manner, however, utilise repetition to embed the essence of their message in the cognitive memory of their audience. By utilising pathos, they are able to deliver a memorable message.
Furthermore, America is a highly religious country, with 87% of the population in 2004 possessing religious beliefs, while in 1961 it was 97% (Gallup, 2016). Both presidents use the theme of religion and God as a tool to evoke emotion (pathos) out of the audience. For example, JFK stating that ‘through His blessing and His help’, we will be able to achieve what is best for the ‘freedom of man’. Similarly, Obama says ‘we love an awesome God…’ to unite his audience to a common ground on the “religious left” (Travin, 2016). The play on this theme evokes strong emotions out of its believers. The use of religion is also useful
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Obama uses a conversational tone with casual and pop-culture natured words like ‘awesome’ and ‘spin masters’. Whereas JFK uses a formal tone with sophisticated wordplay, such as when he states that ‘a good conscience [is] our only sure reward…’. JFK spoke in a formal tone as he targeted a different audience during the 1960’s. However, the millennials now make up 83 million of the American population, and many fail to vote (Pimienta, 2016). The 21st century represents a new era for American politics where millennials represent an untapped market in a country where voting remains optional. Obama is building relatability with a much larger audience and this is evident through his word

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