RhetoricalAnalysis of President Kennedy’s Speech
The United States President, John F. Kennedy, gave a speech entitled‘we go to the moon` on September 12th, 1962 at Rice University inHouston, Texas. The speech would later change the history of theUnited States, marking the beginning of a bold era of humanity. Theessay, therefore, analyzes President Kennedy`s speech highlightingthe rhetorical tools and main points employed. Elements that make thespeech to resonate many years later, after it was delivered are alsohighlighted. The essay analyses the speech to identify its appeal tothe ethos, pathos and logos. Logos is the rhetorical appeal to logicand consistency while ethos is the appeal to ethics. Similarly,pathos is the appeal to the emotion or imagination of the people.
The President starts his speech by recognizing the congregation. Thisis a strong rhetorical appeal to ethos. He addresses the peoplelistening to him. That way, he can establish good rapport with theaudience. Kennedy calls Rice University a center of knowledge andexcellence (Kennedy 1). By calling Rice University that, he shows thetrust he has for his audience into consideration of the content ofhis speech. He also attaches some sense of knowledge and curiosityfor the era that would help in boosting his focus points.
In addition to the appeal to ethos, he also appeals to logos bycompressing 50000 years for a half a century (Schiffer 36). Suchthat, he explains, those ten years before he made the speech peoplewere wearing skin, clothes as they had just emerged from the caves.This gives his speech great credibility. He reinforced that there wasa need to go to the moon before a decade was over. Eventually, in1969, about seven years later the first American astronaut, NeilArmstrong, managed to get to the moon`s surface (Logsdon 22).
He gives examples to strengthen his credibility, as the pathosappeal. Like the previous two months the steam engine had beendeveloped and speaking "literally reached the stars beforemidnight tonight" (Kennedy 1). This condensation of time is tomake the imagination of the audience clearer and show the urgency ofthe matter. He also wants them to realize the importance of thematter to the nation and eventually the entire world. His logic hitsthe mark of credibility when he relates his compression of the yearsto the urgency of the goal.
There is a further appeal to logos when he highlights that the erawas when there were a rapid change, development and advancement. Histemporal compression of time shows that he recognized he was speakingto an audience of scientists, engineers, and students, who understoodthe profundity of such breakneck advancement. The audience wastargeted at a particular occasion at Rice University Stadium. Herecognizes that at the university grounds he would acquire thetarget. The beginning of his speech makes the audience anticipate forthe rest of the speech. He also confirms that since change ishappening and happening first, then it is inevitable that soon peoplewill get to the stars. The change that is to happen, Kennedy believeswill happen by that day midnight. Therefore, out of his think heclaims that the change should be initiated by the United States(Freeman169).
His appeal to people to take a lead in walking to the stars ushershis point that whether they go first or not people would soon gothere. It is an appeal to logic as well as their imagination. He,therefore, says that the main reason for space exploration is not tofill the space with weapons but with instruments of knowledge andunderstanding. Therefore, he appeals to his people that if the UnitedStates wants to lead others, then they have to take a lead sincethere is no nation planning to drive others that stay behindregarding progress. Failure to take a lead is the failure to realizethe goals.
He also appeals to the audience that to keep peace being threatenedby the Soviet Union through cold war, then getting to the moon was anecessity (Logsdon 22). The speech in such a time, delegitimize andcircumvent criticisms about Americans` space exploration. He thenaddresses those potential criticisms and concerns. After explainingthe political, scientific and general importance of spaceexploration, Kennedy highlights the steps to be followed to get tothat ultimate goal. His constant reminder of the urgency andimportance of the action to be taken immediately is an appeal tologic.
Kennedy`s speech is meant to arouse the interests of the audiencetowards a goal that would see Americans at the top. It is an appealto pathos. The audience is made up of learners, Scientists and otherlearned people who are also determined to see the rising of thenation. His speech is credible and is relied on utmost good faiththat the action would be taken and in the near future. It is thereason for informing the audience about the urgency of the matter sothat it would be made with the weight it deserves and eventually bedone immediately.
His compression of time creates an imagination to the listeners aboutthe time frames. The use of that day midnight shows that the matteris urgent and that it needs to be addressed immediately. The contentis systematically organized. After the introduction, the presidentgoes ahead and explains his main agenda, which is well stipulated,the fact that he is appealing to the audience to take a step in goingto the moon. He later explains the urgency and importance of thematter. After the urgency, he also highlights the steps to be takento get to the ultimate goal (Freeman169). Eventually, he concludeshis speech by telling insisting on the absolute need to go to themoon.
The speech resonates 60 and more years after it was made in thatthere is a relationship between the appeals made and the futureoccurrences. Therefore, the speech is credible. The points raised bythe president are systematically influencing the thinking of theaudience. Right from the introduction the president attracts theattention of the listeners by introducing and recognizing them. Healso recognizes the academic excellence of the university in whosegrounds he stands. His introduction shortly follows his first pointthat goes along with the recap of human existence and changes oftime.
Alongside appealing to the ethics, he also appeals to the logic bybeginning with what is known and what is unknown. His recap of thingsthat have occurred within humankind shows how fast the revolution hastaken place and how it is inevitable in the future. The introductionmakes the rest of his speech easily approachable. He, therefore,manages to highlight the matter of urgency, which is to reach to themoon. The question is then followed by the reasons for its need andlater how to achieve the ultimate goal. Therefore, the rhetoricaltools and the main points are carefully highlighted in addition tothe grounds as to why the speech still resonates to date.
Schiffer, Michael. The Archaeology of Science: Studying theCreation of Useful Knowledge. Heidelberg: Springer, 2013. Print.
Kennedy, John F. (1962). We Choose to Go to the Moon.Retrieved From,
< http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm> 4 November, 2015
Logsdon, John M. John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon.Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
Freeman, S D. Winning Our Energy Independence: An Energy InsiderShows How. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2007. Print.