What three phrases are repeated in JFK's inaugural speech

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy repeats the phrase "my fellow citizens" twice, and interestingly, uses it in two different ways. In the first iteration, he says:

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.

In that instance, he is clearly addressing citizens of the United States.

In the second instance, he says the following:

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.

In this instance, he is expanding the notion of citizenship to include like minded people around the world as part of the American dream and the American century; this is a clear display of the United States' perception of itself as a world leader and a world power.

Since the above answer focused on three other uses of repeated phrases (or clauses), I will focus on repeated words used to build antithesis. The whole speech works on the antithesis between a darker and a brighter future that Kennedy can imagine coming. For example, Kennedy says:

For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.

"All forms" is repeated twice and helps highlight the antithesis between the two paths humankind can take: the good path of abolishing "all forms" of poverty or the bad path of nuclear war, which would destroy "all forms" of human life.

Another example of this kind of antithesis appears in the following:

United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do ...

"Little we cannot/can" creates another antithesis between the possibilities inherent in unity and the lack of possibilities that disunity will bring.

Looking through the speech, you will find more example of the device of antithesis using repeated words in different contexts.

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On Friday, January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address as President of the U.S.A.  One of the rhetorical devices that Kennedy used in his speech was anaphora; that is, he repeated certain phrases at the beginning of sentences.  Below are three of the phrases that he repeated, with some examples.

1) "We pledge":

This much we pledge—and more

we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends.

we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves

2) "Let both sides":

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

 Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors.

3) "Ask not":

ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.