JFK Inauguration Speech Remembered 50 Years On

By Andrew Ivey | Speeches

Jan 23

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s Presidential Inauguration speech. It’s a speech with much to recommend it. Pace and tempo. Dramatic allusion and rhetorical flourish all delivered with a slightly Churchillian flourish.

John F Kennedy

President John F Kennedy Speech

Phrase reversals were a popular rhetorical device with John F Kennedy:

And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country


My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

and, referring to the USSR:

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

His references to the former USSR clearly puts the speech in the context of 1961. Yes, he referenced civil rights, the economy and technology. But it was the relationship with the USSR plus war in Vietnam that was central to this speech.

He used opposites with equally good measure:

“I do not shrink from this responsibility. I welcome it.”

It remains a poignant speech, not least because of the images of both President and Mrs Kennedy being driven through throngs of supporters in an open-topped car. A scene that was so tragically familiar less than three years later in Dallas, Texas.

Yes, Please

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+

  • Lorna says:

    It’s touching and inspiring. A nice post for this hard times! THlanks

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