John F. Kennedy's Presidency Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

How does John F. Kennedy employ rhetorical elements of ethos and pathos to persuade his audience? Read the text below from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address: We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friends and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear by burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.  

John F. Kennedy mixes ethos and pathos in the quote you cite in many ways. He uses "ethos" by saying "we" instead of "you" or "I". This makes us seem like we share the same spirit and are united to "assure [...] the success of liberty." As for pathos, we could say that by evoking past wars and "hard and bitter peace," Kennedy makes us feel compassion and gratitude for those who fought for the prosperity that many now have.

Expert Answers info

Seth Oelbaum, M.F.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseEditor, Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Columbia College Chicago

bookM.F.A. from University of Notre Dame


calendarEducator since 2020

write23 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Before we can think about how John F. Kennedy's words embrace pathos and ethos, let's be sure we know what pathos and ethos mean.

After looking at multiple dictionaries, we think it's safe to say that "pathos" is a device used to make the audience feel compassion, emotion, or pity.

As for "ethos," that refers to the spirit, the culture, and the guiding principles of an organization, a group, a person, or a country.

Notice the first word of the lines you quote. What is it? It's "we." Already, Kennedy is summoning a communal spirit. He's not talking about himself, he's not talking about us, he's...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 928 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write5,304 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write2,159 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial