Rhetorical analysis

A closer look at JFK’s “Inaugural address”

In today’s class we will take a closer look at JFK’s Inaugural address. 

Step 1

Register an account  by following the link below: 


Step 2

Click the confirmation link in the email to activate your account

Step 3.

Click the link below to the transcript of Kennedy’s speech:


Step 4. Get annotating!

  • What rhetorical devices does Kennedy use?
  • What ideas and ideals does he appeal to?

Step 5. Join my group


List of rhetorical devices:


Video of the full speech:


In what ways are JFK’s speech persuasive? How does he use language and his way of speaking to persuade and influence?

7 reaktioner till “Rhetorical analysis”

  1. TASK:

    I think that JFK has a special way of persuade and contact the audience, those who were there and those, like me, decades after the first presentation of this speech, sitting in a classroom (for example) and reading/listening to it.

    He have a way of speaking that moves the spectator, and I think that is one of the main reasons that he is such a great speaker, who moves and reach the majority of the listeners. He does not scream, or talk rapidly and he is not in any way stressed. He is calm, and he talks like an all-knowing person, from the perspective as the President, but at the same time he is humble and he really talks TO the people, like if he was one of them. Just ordinary.

    One other reason that I can come up with that affect the amount of persuasion is his body language. He does not just stand still, he talks with his hands, his facial expression, he talks with his whole body, even if he stands in one place all the time. He gives energy and authority just by looking at the way he stands and hoe he contacts the audience.


  2. In what ways are JFK’s speech persuasive? How does he use language and his way of speaking to persuade and influence?

    – He follows many of the ”rules” when it comes to speaking publicly, and did so while he was writing his speech as well (just look at all the annotations). However if you take a look at the speech as a whole you’ll probably note the choice of words. The language is pretty and flows nicely, seeming a bit artistic or even poetic.
    Instead of saying: ”Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”, he could have went about saying: ”Hand the government resources please, we can do cool things then.”.
    Simply put, he comes off as being a bit more inspiring than the latter.

    (The time ran out.)


  3. To me one of the most important things when it comes to speaking in public is confidence. If you as a speaker is confident and truly believes in the meaning behind your spoken words, then so will everyone listening to you as well.

    This is something that JFK does incredibly well. The way he speaks makes you want to listen. He knows what to do and what not to do. One of the main reasons for him being persuasive is that he knows his material. He does not seem insecure or unsure. He speaks with pride, power and passion. Which makes it difficult not to feel what he is speaking of.

    He speaks to and for the people. He does a great job of including everyone, no one is left out, no one is forgotten, everyone is included. This is crucial to the motive behind his speech. He does not speak out to the people for the sake of it. He has a message that he wants, that he needs, everyone to hear and agree on.

    Every thing that he does and says up on that podium is well thought out. Nothing is left to chance. The words he speaks are carefully chosen, the way he moves is rehearsed, everything serves his agenda. Being able to speak is such a manner is, according to me, a gift. It takes a lot of a person to speak and persuade in the way that he does. He makes it seem all so natural, it appears genuine.


  4. JFK´s speech is very influence and he is a good speaker. He uses a lot of metaphor, alliteration and some other rhetorical figures. The reason he uses those rhetorical figure is that he wants to affect the listeners. He wants the listeners be agreeing with him and think that he is a good president.
    He tries to find common thinks for example the citizen of US to make it more interesting for the public. JFK is a calm and non-stressed when he speaks and talks about important things in front of thousands of people and it makes it easy to telling his thoughts and ideas when he is calm and non-stressed . The speaker use a very nice language but in an easy way to make it easy for public and to be not a boring speech. JFK language is very nice and formal because he is speaking in front of a lot of people. There are also some other politician, lawyer and other people which make it important to use a formal language with influence and good word and sentence.


  5. How is JFK’s speech persuasive?
    In John F. Kennedy’s speech, like so many others out there he uses a great variety of persuasive and influential methods to induce the feelings of his audience. And he really delivered a speech which influenced not only the minds of the people in the audience, but also the people that live now and for generations to come. There are many reasons why he was such a great speaker and leader, and I will now discuss some of them.

    One of the ways that JFK caught the interest of the listeners was the simplicity of his speech in different ways. He founds ways to keep the text short and simple, covering the important parts in the most effective ways. He did that by saying what he wanted to say in the fewest words possible, and that way the audience didn’t become bored or inpatient by unnecessary babble.

    In addition to keeping it simple and short he uses many other persuasive tools, and one example is the way he compares things. Together with those comparisons that are meant to provoke feelings it isn’t unusual to find metaphors, alliterations, three part lists and other speech-tricks to gain influence over one’s mind. If you look past all the “tools” that he uses he also has another way of getting your attention, and that is the calmness in his voice. Not an ounce of stress, speaking only a few words at a time and having regular pauses in between – three cornerstones that distinguish an exceptional speaker.

    Another thing I noticed, which maybe isn’t the most noticeable is that he knows exactly who will be persuaded by the different parts in his speech. For example he talks about his enemies and allies, in a not so threateningly way he manages to get his words out to the rest of the world. And in a passionate and bolstering way he manages to get into the young people’s mind. That this is their time and place to live and to make their dreams come true, to seek their freedom and make their lives the best possible. All in all he was one of the greatest speakers this world has seen, and that this world will ever see – at least that’s what I believe.


  6. The task

    In what ways are JFK´s speech persuasive? How does he use language and his way of seaking tgo persuade and influence?

    The speech is held in a calm, yet confident and clear tone combined with a
    Overall JFK is using a lot of metaphors to describe different situations or specifc events in a powerful and convincing way. An example of the use of a metaphor was his expression ”Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths”. To further persuade the listener he was also using contrasts such as ”If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich” aswell as plenty of ”threes”.

    The device ”anaphora” is something also used in his speech. Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of the first part of a sentance such as ”Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe” where ”any” is the phrase of the sentance that is being repeated. ”Nor will it finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime ” is another example of an anaphora used by JFK in his speech.


  7. Being able to keep a good speech and at the same time influence the audience is an art. This is what Jf.Kennedy did in his speech. He used many rhetorical devices, to capture the audience’s attention and at the same time influenced the audience’s thoughts and ideas. In his speech, he used many rhetorical devices, such as alliterations, metaphors, antithesis, etc. The art of giving a good speech does of course not only depend on the content of the speech but very much on rhetorical devices and in what tone the speech is held. Jf.Kennedy had both. In his speech Jf.Kennedy often had short pauses between his words to give the audience (the listeners) time to comprehend the meaning of it and have time to absorb it. Jf.Kennedy often changed his tone through his speech, often associated with the message he wanted to give the audience. Sometimes he kept a high tone and other times a lower tone and therefore the speech was rarely monotone. By pointing with his finger and making movements with his hands, he emphasized the significance of his words “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country”.

    Throughout his speech he rarely used the concept of “us and them”. Instead he used the term “we”, which not only captured the audience’s attention, but also increased the feeling of unity. Comparing this with Swedish party leader speeches in Almedalen, the difference is quite large. The speakers this year often used the words “we” and “them” in their speeches. It was exhausting to listen to and left me with a very bad feeling of disunity and insecurity.



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