September 19, 2014
With Liberty and Justice For All - If You Want
Throughout American history, several words have been spoken on the freedom of our country and how we all strive to keep freedom as our own. These words have reached our ears through inspirational expressions of song, poetry, and well-known speeches given by our respected leaders. Although there are several speeches that are still brought to mind when we think about American freedom today, one of the most poignant articulations was John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. Kennedy, being the respected leader that he was, spoke liberalizing words that let the bells of freedom ring through our minds as he not only spoke on his view for the future of America, but the action he wanted America’s citizens to take. Kennedy appropriately addressed the hesitant audience in a way that called them to battle as well as giving them an option to act on his ideas.
The figurative language that is found in Kennedy’s inaugural address was an exquisite use of words that created a personal bond between him and the listener, even though he didn’t actually know the audience on a personal level. Metaphors such as “the bonds of mass misery” and “the chains of poverty” connected with the spectators and evoked emotions within them about the demons that were holding their country back, such as misery and poverty (bonds and chains). This established ethos and made the onlooker feel as if Kennedy was personally fighting for them and their country’s freedom. As well as the strong use of metaphors, personification was used throughout the address to bring life to the ideas he had, such as “sister republics” and “the prey of hostile powers.” This excellent syntax energized the listener and made them feel as if they could go fight for their country at any time, but also persuaded the audience without actually commanding them to do any certain action. Kennedy did a great job at explaining his view on what could be done to change the country for the better, without using harsh words that made the listener feel as if they were being forced to take action.
John F. Kennedy is most known for his famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country,” which is found in his inaugural address. This quote drew powerful emotion from the American hearts of citizens because of its excellent use of antithesis. However, this isn’t the only example of antithesis that Kennedy expertly threaded into his speech. Sentences such as, “We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change,” and “Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us” took two very different angles of a topic and juxtaposed them to make the reader sincerely think about what side of the fight they wanted to be on. This was a great way to engage the reader in the speech and explore their role in the country, which in turn encouraged them to take action on making an example of their beliefs. After the two completely different sides that the battle was being fought on were shown, the listener could choose what side they agreed with and what action they wanted to take. This inadvertently forced the audience to choose to be on his side, without actually putting that decision into words.
Along with the roles that figurative language and antithesis played in Kennedy’s address, one of the most attention-drawing techniques that is found throughout the speech is the use of hortative and imperative sentences. The speech started out with an extraordinary amount of hortative sentences, such as “Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us,” and “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that 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.” These sentences declared action instead of just asking for the people to agree with him and act on his requests. As the speech continued, Kennedy switched to the use of imperative sentences that requested the listener to partake in the actions he was describing. For example, toward the end Kennedy said, “Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?” Instead of declaring that this was in fact possible, the President of the people asked what their opinion was in hopes that they agreed with him.
John F. Kennedy was a highly respected ambassador that helped mold our country into what it is today. His powerful words brought the populace of America to their feet time and time again, encouraging them to not only focus on themselves individually but to broaden their horizons and dedicate themselves to the well being of America. Kennedy’s thoughts on the actions that needed to be taken are still remembered and applied to this day. He had a way of speaking from the bottom of his soul that propelled the American citizen to act on his ideas without the use of commands or requirements. A leader is not something that you come across often, especially in the country that we live in today. It takes a substantial amount of courage, bravery, and pride to become one who is looked to in times of need. Kennedy had all of these traits and more. His pride for the country swelled and prominated in his speeches, as we can see clearly from his inaugural address. Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from the thought process of John F. Kennedy. As you think about his impact on America and how you can achieve the greatness that he did, I urge you to answer the question that is being asked in his address: What can you do for your country?
Is there anyone who hasn’t?
I know that I’m hard to love. Some days I’m all smiles and affection and then other days there’s nothing I want more than to be quiet and lie in bed.
Sometimes I get angry about stupid things and won’t want to talk to you. Other days I’ll think that you’re the most perfect person in the world.
Please don’t give up on me. I know it’s not easy but I’ll always come back to you.
"The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love."
Her (dir. Spike Jonze, 2013)