Student Question

How does John F. Kennedy use pathos and ethos in his inaugural speech?

Quick answer:

In his inaugural speech, John F. Kennedy uses pathos by invoking feelings of sympathy, gratitude, and patriotism, particularly when he mentions the sacrifices of the armed forces and urges Americans to consider what they can do for their country. He utilizes ethos by highlighting his position as the elected President and affirming his readiness to shoulder the responsibilities that come with it, thereby establishing his credibility and character.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kennedy appeals to emotions in his audience (pathos) when he mentions "the graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe." Here, Kennedy reminds his audience of the ultimate sacrifice the men and women of the armed forces have made.  We feel sympathy for the families and friends they left behind, gratitude for their sacrifice, and pity for their lost lives.  In his very famous imperative, Kennedy says, "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." This evokes the emotions of patriotism, pride, and a feeling of responsibility.

Because he is the newly elected President of the United States, Kennedy possesses the automatic ethos that comes with being the leader of the free world. Beyond that, Kennedy furthers his credibility and deepens his character by reminding the country that "I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago."  Kennedy signals to his audience that he understands the gravity and responsibility inherent in his new position.  He also says, " I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it." Kennedy communicates to his audience that he is equal to the task they have elected him to accomplish.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial