John F. Kennedy – The Speaker

Category: Human Nature, Kennedy
Last Updated: 17 May 2021
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I choose John F. Kennedy to write about as he epitomizes a great speaker to me. As I learned in class and in reading the textbook, credibility is key for any speaker to be fully respected. I believe that John F. Kennedy not only meets this qualification but surpasses it. Over the years I have looked at his speaking methodology and tried to follow his direction in speaking with knowledge, truth, and having the credibility on the subject matter. After being sworn into office, one of the best speeches was given by John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. His inauguration speech gripped the whole nation, and it was so powerful that people still quote it to this day. It is one of the greatest speeches of all time that was ever written. The reason so many people remember quotes from this speech word for word is that there is a strong reaction to the pathos, ethos and logos in the people who hear it. John F. Kennedy was the United States’ thirty fifth president. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and then entered the Navy.

He started out as a reporter before he entered politics. Afterwards he wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning "Profiles in Courage". Because Kennedy was the youngest president to take office, he faced much skepticism from his critics. This speech gave him recognition that was positive, although it had many purposes. In order to encourage the public of America to become actively involved with their country is why the inaugural address was written (Goldzwig & Dionisopoulos, 1995). Evident throughout John F. Kennedy's speech is energy that is youthful.

Even though he just won a difficult campaign, his focus was not on the policies that contributed to his victory. The objectives he has are shown in powerful appeals to emotion, through establishing a link with the common American citizen. Drawing from his past but focusing on his future, he is able to personalize his speech (Boller, 1967). Kennedy's words stress his active goal of uniting two divisive camps. He discusses the great responsibilities he carries as a president and worldwide symbol of peace, and toward the end of his speech, he says: "I do not shrink from this responsibility I welcome it. His listeners are allowed to hear the strength of this determination from the showing of his persistence as a leader. His stance is that the world can only be bettered by accumulated effort therefore he extends his energies to everyone. When he places the focus on what can be done for the solving of the problem, the activism in his speech can be seen very clearly. His final aim for peace between debatable forces becomes obvious with his idea to, "have strong power to eliminate other nations with complete control of every nations. "Complete" emphasizes the bold diction applied to his speech, and it unites zeugma. He knows that people are afraid of this world, and he represents the boldness to let them know somebody is available that is not scared to have a peace negotiation (Barnes, 2005). Some of Kennedy's appeals that were the best to the audience were created by the diction that was metaphorical. An example of such use of metaphor is his vow to southern nations "to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. Here, his metaphor not only clarifies his goal of liberation but emphasizes that freedom means not repeating historical injustices. He speaks of evil tyrants in history stating, "Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside," plainly illustrating his plans of becoming a moral figure on the international level. Formal diction evokes a sense of national pride, especially by respectfully referring to past Americans as "forebears. " In the beginning sentence he ingeniously calls upon other citizens and addresses lots of government types.

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He places the Americans on course with the others spoken about (Heath, 1976). Kennedy does not drag on too long on a point, which is allowed with his use of paragraphs that are short, and some cases paragraphs that are composed of one sentence. His short rhetorical questions, applicable to almost anybody, make his speeches appeal to a great deal of people. A prime example of these short questions is, 'Will you join us in this historic effort? ', which was intended to bring individuals together against a common enemy, but longer and more intricate sentences are more common in this speech.

Incongruous remarks such as the famous “Ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country," are visible all over, and they work well in making his intended points. These sentences are characteristic of his use of parallelism, where he lists many key ideas to make one long sentence (Liebovich, 2001). Kennedy takes advantage of declarative sentences to convey his strength. An example of this includes, "to those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free," as well as, "to those people in huts and villages across the globe. By repeating these declarations, he makes it appear as if he will definitely implement his plan. A good part of his speech is to call people into action. He uses exhortation sentences, such as his mentions of "let both sides... " that show his collaborative approach. He remains with his active approach with the use of sentences in the imperative; however, the humility shows through in these calls to action. He tells citizens to come up, themselves, with ways to help.

The use of antithesis in writing is seen through the skillful arrangement of sentences, where he first says what not to do and follows up with a statement of what must take place. He effectively groups ideas together when rhetorically necessary, such as his description of man's common struggle against, "tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. " As Kennedy shows, strong points require firm diction and even occasionally backwards syntax. Soviets sent the first man out to space on April 26, 1961. This success was used by Khrushchev as prime evidence of the superiority of communism over decadent capitalism.

Ashamed, the US worried it was behind the Russians and not winning the race to get into space. After speaking with political types and NASA workers, Kennedy thought the US should bravely go ahead and put a man on the moon. The United States, after this feat, would not only surpass the Soviet Union by far, but, in the words of Neil Armstrong, accomplish "one giant leap" for humankind's knowledge of science and space. And by the end of the '60s, it would be "mission accomplished. " Kennedy set timeline for its success and was straightforward and strong with his goal that was ambitious.

By offering a notable speech imploring Americans to put the effort in to be the first to put a man on the moon, Kennedy contributed a huge force towards the success of this space exploration program goal (Heath, 1976). Kennedy stated,” I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. " Kennedy also said, at the time of the Berlin wall problem, "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore as a free man, I take pride in the words: "Ich bin ein Berliner! ("I am a Berliner"). Finally, but of equal importance, we can view his speaking and leading talents working, at the Cuban - Missile crisis where U-2 jets discovered that the Soviet Union were quietly giving Cuba missiles. President Kennedy decided to employ a naval blockade (Barnes, 2005). "All ships of any kind bound for Cuba will, if found to contain cargo of offensive weapons, be turned back. " The greatest service he made was laying the foundation for passing a civil rights bill that gave all Americans equal rights.

For this to be a reality, black America fought very hard. Speeches John F. Kennedy’s knack for the spoken word was unrivalled. His oratorical mastery coupled with a dosage of the Boston accent continues to inspire and influence speechwriters decades later. Kennedy magnificent speeches made interesting watching and listening. The moving speeches that played a central role in his candidacy and eventual presidency were written in team mode by one Ted Sorenson. Ted Sorenson, who was Kennedy’s close advisor, did not work in isolation as he incorporated a team of brilliant writers.

Phrases authored by Sorenson captured the imagination of a generation which are highlighted in his book-Counsellor- that looks at the attributes of Kennedy as a communicator. John F. Kennedy’s life was rich with memorable moments that provided fodder for his speechwriters to pen the memorable speeches. Such moments include his heroics in the war front, clinching the senate seat and rising to the presidency. His dazzling speeches gave his ever keen audience the feeling that they knew him. Kennedy had the audience eager and expectant to hear his speech even before he uttered a word.

Barrack Obama oratorical abilities are similar to those of John F. Kennedy. Ted Sorenson Legendary speechwriter, Theodore Chaikin “Ted” Sorensen was born in May 8, 1928. Sorenson, who President Kennedy referred to as an “intellectual blood bank” is of counsel at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Sorensen is synonymous with John F. Kennedy’s speeches, counsel and adviser. He effectively played the role of John F. Kennedy counsel and adviser and most importantly was the architect of his spellbinding speeches.

He coined the phrase that exhorted listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” in Kennedy’s inaugural speech. Sorensen states that although he was pivotal in the composition of the inaugural speech the phrase that became a clarion call of the Kennedy administration was “written by Kennedy himself” contrary to what many believe. Sorensen’s entry to foreign policy was necessitated after the debacle that was the Bay of Pigs when the President asked him to take part in the discussion.

He was handy in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis, assisting in preparing John F. Kennedy correspondence with Nikita Khruschev. He initially served as a special counsel and advisor in charge of the domestic agenda. Following the assassination of Kennedy, Sorensen helped Lyndon B. Johnson who succeeded John F. Kennedy, in his first few months, according to LBJ memoirs. He authored Lyndon B. Johnson’s maiden speech to the congress and also his state of the union address. He departed to the White House to write John F. Kennedy biography that was published in 1965.

The biography that went on to become an international bestseller and was subsequently translated to several languages illuminating the life and times of John F. Kennedy in the White House. A Legacy John F. Kennedy is credited with minimal legislative accomplishment. Although he was the brainchild of the landmark legislation of the civil rights action, he did not live to see it materialize. John F. Kennedy’s aspirations, spirit, lineage, and perceived strengths continue to inspire people across the world and leaders who want to emulate his oratorical skills.

Kennedy’s mastery in the art of speaking was helped by the fact that he was not bitter. He would occasionally point for effect. He effectively used these public speaking basics. John F. Kennedy remains a phenomenal even today with politicians from all political spectrum and business leaders across the continent listening to his speech structures and delivery.


  1. Barnes, J. A. (2005). John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President. New York: AMACOM. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? =o=111448711
  2. Boller, P. F. (1967). Quotemanship: The Use and Abuse of Quotations for Polemical and Other Purposes. Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o=10910248
  3. Goldzwig, S. R. , & Dionisopoulos, G. N. (1995). In a Perilous Hour: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o=35345061
  4. Heath, J. F. (1976). Decade of Disillusionment: The Kennedy-Johnson Years.
  5. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o=84371896
  6. Liebovich, L. W. (2001). The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000. Westport, CT: Praeger. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o=101157275
  7. Simon Maier and Jeremy Kourdi. (1999). The 100 Insights and lessons from 100 of the greatest speeches ever delivered. Retrieved from: http://www. leadershipexpertise. com/resources/The %20100%20Excerpts. pdf

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