On January 20th 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address to the nation. The 1960 Presidential campaign had been increasingly competitive, with Presidential contender Richard Nixon exhibiting similar views as John F. Kennedy (United States History Organization, 2011). Despite making similar campaign promises, President Kennedy won the election by highlighting the heroism he exhibited during World War II (Casey, 2008). Throughout his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy emphasized the values the United States was founded upon (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). In his inauguration speech, President Kennedy focuses on maintaining freedom through outlining his goals, exploring previous events, and promoting hope for the future.
President John F. Kennedy began his inaugural speech in stating; “we observe today not a victory of a party but a celebration of freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). In this statement, President Kennedy is acknowledging that a Presidential election is more than a victory it is a Constitutional right. Instead of focusing on his winning, President Kennedy is celebrating the values the United States was founded upon (Hossell, 2006). He is further acknowledging that political parties are not important.
Instead, our ability to choose a leader that reflects the desires and needs of the people is a victory within itself. In further uniting the people, President Kennedy is helping to build cohesion throughout the nation and promote a sense of nationalism. This is initially evident as President Kennedy focuses on his victory as the leader of the free world, rather than his political affiliation (Clark, 2010) This is again exemplified when President Kennedy stated, “ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). From this perspective, President Kennedy is acknowledging that as a nation based on freedoms, we need to work together to ensure these freedoms are upheld for generations to come. Furthermore, it could be argued that this statement is heavily based on history, as our founding fathers worked together to form the freedoms we as citizens enjoy on a daily basis (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2011). President Kennedy further demonstrates this in stating, “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of the first revolution” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012).
Throughout his inaugural speech, President Kennedy refers to recent events that have occurred in demonstrating why the United States is different from other nations (Clark, 2010). In reviewing the historical events of the time, the United Nations was newly created, there was a strong level of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, and many had become concerned that the United States had fallen behind technologically (United States Department of State, 2014; United States History Organization, 2011; Hossell, 2006). As a whole, this could be considered a stressful period in history, in which many individuals in the United States pondered if the country had the ability to defeat the Soviet Union in a war if it occurred (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, 2013). However, in his inaugural address, President Kennedy took a different stance on the issue. Instead of focusing on tension, he calls for peace. This is best exemplified when President Kennedy states, “to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request; that both sides begin anew quest for peace” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). In this statement, President Kennedy is showing the world that his administration and the United States does not want to go to war with its rivals. Furthermore, instead of focusing on the previous relations between adversaries and former Presidents, President Kennedy is showing the world that his administration is willing to move beyond former discussions to establish peace in the world.
Yet President Kennedy further asserts this claim when he states, “before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). In this statement, President Kennedy is acknowledging the detrimental effects the newly created sputnik missiles could have on the world. It should be further noted that prior to his taking office, the Soviet Union was successful in fueling fears throughout the United States that the government had failed to keep up with the Soviet Union’s technologies. The United States Department of State (2014) further concurs in noting, “as a result, the launch of sputnik served to intensify the arms race and raise Cold War tensions.” Yet, in his speech, President Kennedy is calling for both an open dialect and peace between the United States and Soviet Union.
In addressing the past, President Kennedy is promoting hope for the future throughout his inaugural speech (Clark, 2010). In calling for peace throughout the world, President Kennedy acknowledges, “this will not be finished within the first one-hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand day, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). Yet, the need to work on relationships and ensure the peace and prosperity for all people throughout the world was a critical goal for the Kennedy administration. President Kennedy further helps to unite the people of the United States with people throughout the world in acknowledging the burdens plaguing all men, including, “a struggle against the common enemies of man, tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself” (University of California Santa Barbara, 2012). The emphasis on promoting peace throughout the world and uniting people through common problems exemplifies how President Kennedy promoted hope in his inaugural address (Hossell, 2006).
President Kennedy’s inaugural address takes a multifaceted approach in addressing the stressors plaguing the nation and the world. Throughout his speech,
President Kennedy works hard to diminish these burdens and calls for peace throughout the world. Yet, President Kennedy never forgets the values the United States was founded upon, as he continues to outline the freedoms granted bestowed upon the people in the United States Constitution. In looking to the future, President Kennedy promotes a sense of hope, that one day; the world will in fact be at peace. President Kennedy’s inaugural successfully delivers his goals while emphasizing freedom, explores previous events, and promotes hope for the future.