John F. Kennedy's Presidency

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What charged words used in JFK's inaugrual speech inspire and add impact? For a language study

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Charged words are meant to evoke strong emotions from an audience. In this case, Kennedy is trying, in his inaugural address, to support an emotionally positive and idealistic vision of a world in which the United States, rather than the Soviet Union, is the leader. He also uses words that...

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Charged words are meant to evoke strong emotions from an audience. In this case, Kennedy is trying, in his inaugural address, to support an emotionally positive and idealistic vision of a world in which the United States, rather than the Soviet Union, is the leader. He also uses words that appeal strongly to the history and patriotism of the American people. Charged words include "freedom" and "free" (which he uses several times), as well as "liberty." Kennedy also alludes more than once to the American revolution, which, of course, is strongly associated with the concepts of freedom and liberty.

Kennedy also uses "free" or "freedom" in juxtaposition with battling poverty. He employs charged language when he says:

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help . . .

Words such as "struggling," "break the bonds," "mass misery," and "best" imply American superiority to those people in "huts and villages," and position American power and wealth as resources which will be used to the utmost to save the rest of the world.

Kennedy also uses the charged words "peace" or "peaceful" five times, surrounding those words with a vision of American military might defending the good. He uses "God" three times, enlisting the deity as on the side of Americans. He ends the speech with an emotional statement that brings in the charged words "love," "blessing," "God" and "truly" to make a highly idealistic and exalted appeal to Americans to be no less then God's representatives on earth. Such words stir patriotism:

let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

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John F. Kennedy's inaugural address utilizes a number of charged words within the context of rhetorical devices, known to inspire and have impact upon audiences. For example, at the beginning of the speech, he uses the inspiring concepts of "freedom," "renewal," and "change" within an anaphoric phrase: "a celebration of freedom –– celebrating an end as well as a beginning –– signifying renewal as well as change." Kennedy's use of these active concepts encourages his audience to join with him in a move to change and improve the nation.

This sense of unity and change pervades Kennedy's address, with "revolutionary" creeping in in the next paragraph to remind the audience of the origins of their nation and inspire patriotic feeling. Throughout, he uses "we" to create a sense of togetherness. "We" are the nation always "committed" to human rights; "we" will "pay any price" for liberty. These words, "liberty," "revolutionary," "heritage," are all charged words that draw upon the history of the American nation and suggest that anyone not adhering to Kennedy's philosophy is not a patriot.

"Pledge" is a word Kennedy repeats throughout the entirety of his speech. In giving this speech, he makes a pledge on behalf of all Americans, to freedom, perhaps the most dearly-held concept in American ideology.

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Any word that seems to evoke an emotional response can be considered a charged word. JFK uses many rhetorical devices, but these planned "charged" words directly address the various audiences to whom he speaks.

To the allies, after the war and in the midst of a cold war, he uses the words "united" and "divided" in different sentences each of these demonstrate that there is no middle ground and they must proceed together for the interests of all. This attempts to generate unity.

To mankind, particularly Americankind, he notes the power we possess. He uses our ability to "abolish" and gives it two different connotations. It could be used positively if we exercise human compassion and abolish "poverty", or negatively if we extinguish "human life".

He repeatedly uses freedom, pledge, liberty, and revolution. Each of these words have stood the test of time for American patriots and they evoke a sense of national pride as well as favor in humankind.

He also uses citizens and mankind to evoke a sense of unity among Americans and among peoples worldwide. His message is one of cooperation and he works to ensure their buy-in with this type of language.

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