Analysis Of The Rhetorical Choices In Political Speeches

1268 words - 6 pages

Every four years during any US Presidential election overzealous patriotism hits an all time high, and it truly shows with the citizen turnout at the newly elected President’s inaugural ceremony. In the months leading up to election day, Presidential candidates attempt to persuade voters to cast ballots in their favor through different forms of advertising which contains strategic rhetoric and political language. Political language otherwise known as “political propaganda”, is designed to influence masses of people within a nation, and even across the globe. As Harry S. Truman stated during the National Conference on Family Life on May 6th, 1948: “the principal power that the President has is to bring people in and try to persuade them to do what they ought to do without persuasion”(Truman,Worksheet). The power that Truman spoke of is undeniable during any President’s inaugural address, which highlights the beginning of their term as the newly elected President, while addressing their plans for the people of the United States during the next four years. These addresses contain propaganda techniques that most listeners wouldn’t recognize as propaganda, including: glittering generalities, transfer, plain folks, card stacking, bandwagon, and testimonials.
One of the most memorable inaugural speeches in American history was delivered by President John F. Kennedy on January 20th, 1961. Throughout his speech Kennedy uses the “plain folks” technique, with the use of words like,“we”,”our”, and “us”, to convince his audience that he was simply an ordinary man of the people. More specifically he addressed the issues facing Americans regarding tensions between the United States and The Soviet Union, and his hopes of managing international affairs. John F Kennedy’s Inaugural address contains rhetorical and propaganda devices that appeal to the religious beliefs, international fears, and personal hopes of the American people and people across the globe.
Kennedy’s inaugural address was given during the Cold War period when tensions between the United States and Russia were rising. Throughout his speech Kennedy uses pathos, otherwise known as the appeal to one’s emotions along with glittering generalities to address the national fears of many Americans. Glittering generalities are emotionally suggestive words that arouse audiences by making them “feel good” so to speak. Kennedy begins by saying, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights” (Kennedy,463). By addressing the American audience as a “new generation”, which has been passed a “torch” to complete a specific task for the “survival and success of liberty...at home and around the world”(Kennedy,463), arouses a sense of dignity,...

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