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To what extent was Kennedy's Inaugural Address useful in understanding the development...

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littlechicken23 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 6, 2012 at 11:43 AM via web

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To what extent was Kennedy's Inaugural Address useful in understanding the development of the Cold War up to 1960?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:13 PM (Answer #1)

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In many ways, I think that President Kennedy's Inaugural Address is useful in understanding the development of the Cold War up to 1960 simply because the address departed from the traditional interpretation of the Cold War.  President Kennedy sought to construct an Inaugural Address that was fundamentally divergent from the vision of what other addresses had represented.  In this, Kennedy's understanding of the Cold War through his Inaugural Address suggested that American Presidents had to be handicapped by it, seeking to constantly discuss it at every moment.  President Kennedy's Inaugural Address sought to depart from this.  He sought a transcendental tone to his address, something that discussed the Cold War but actually saw past it.  Kennedy's clarion call to providence and invoking the divine in developing what he saw as American character sought to transformed how the Cold War was seen.  No longer was it about "the enemy."  Rather, President Kennedy's address made it seem that if the American public understood their condition as one granted to them by exceptional powers and prowess, the Cold War would resolve itself in their favor.  The dwelling on the opposition is not needed when the belief and fervent zeal of transcendence is evident.  The calls to "bear any burden" or to "not fear to negotiate" or "the new generation of Americans" all invoke this transcendence, one that enveloped the Cold War and failed to be held hostage to it.  In this, President Kennedy's Inaugural Address in its departure from previous addresses helps us to understand how the Cold War had been developing up to that point.  President Kennedy takes this and seeks to pivot towards something more elevated in his address.

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