What Was John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address Like?


Quick Answer

President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address focused on concerns related to the Cold War, primarily the delicate balance he wanted to achieve between the United States' military power and its duty to establish and maintain diplomatic international relations. Kennedy specifically discussed the arms race, nuclear power and global poverty.

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Full Answer

Kennedy's inaugural speech, which he wrote in conjunction with speech writer Ted Sorensen, employed rhetorical tools such as alliteration, contrast, imagery and lists of three. In addition, Kennedy made directed efforts to include various audiences in his speech, addressing not only his own countrymen but also new democratic nations, friendly and hostile countries, the United Nations and the "sister nations" of Central America. For each of these audiences, he shared key components of the foreign policy agenda that applied to their situations.

Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 1961, and he delivered his address immediately after his oath. The address was less than 15 minutes long and a mere 1,364 words, but it included a number of lines that have gone on to become widely quoted, including "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

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