Essay on Similarities and Differences Between the Inaugural Addresses of FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan
Number of words: 976
The inaugural address of a president conveys the intentions of his/her government. Elected presidents usually use their inaugural address to thank their citizens and reiterate their commitment to implementing their manifesto. By analyzing a president’s inaugural address, we can know their vision for the country. It is worth noting that the prevailing economic conditions usually influence the context of a presidential inaugural address. That is to say, if a nation is threatened by say war or financial crisis, the president will usually seek to address the issue in his/her address. Many of the past American presidents are renowned for their use of pathos, ethos, and logos to appeal to their audience. In this essay, we will examine the similarities and differences in the inaugural address of Ronald Reagan, John F.Kennedy, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In particular, we look how these similarities and differences relate to their vision of the USA.
Use of Pathos, Ethos, and Logos to appeal to the audience
John Kennedy inaugural address occurred at a crucial time in the United States. There was the fear of the cold war, use of nuclear war and spread of communism. Thus in his speech, J.F Kennedy had to address these worries in the minds of the Americans. Kennedy used the pathos, ethos, and logos to appeal to the audience and grab their attention. The first example of Kennedy’s use of logos is where he says, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” Through this statement, he appeals to the logic of the American citizens that if they cannot help other people who are worse off, who will then help them.
Ronald Reagan’s election came in the wake of a point where the USA was its lowest ebb. The American’s faith in their government was at a low level. President Nixon had just resigned. The Americans thus needed someone who would build their confidence in the government. Reagan’s use of logos is captured in the instance where he poses a rhetorical question to his audience asking them what makes them believe the nation can live by borrowing if they on their capacity as individuals are unable to do so. In this case, Reagan wanted to gain the attention of the Americans towards actualizing his dream of rebuilding the USA.
Roosevelt used ethos, logos, and pathos to grab the audience attention. He was elected in the wake of the Great Depression, and thus he had to find a mean of lifting America out of the recession. Consequently, a majority of Americans were scared and worried. He employs the use of ethos in the first paragraph where he mentions he will address the audience with candor and decision, which the present situation impels. Using ethos here he gains the attention of the American citizens. In the second and third paragraph, he uses logos by inferring to the drop in the interest rates, the low values and other problems that the governments are facings.
The difference in the inaugural address of the three presidents was mainly in the content. As earlier mentioned the three presidents were elected at periods, which had various threats and concerns.
John F Kennedy’s speech emphasized on the need of unity of the human race. In the whole address, he reiterates the need for the USA helping other people. He refers to how the USA is willing and ready to help the neighboring Americas to address their poverty. Again, he also reiterates the importance of the United Nations (UN), which was tasked with bringing unity and sanity in the world. It is evident Kennedys address was centered on the threat posed by the cold war, use of nuclear weapons and the risk of the spread of communism.
Unlike John F.Kennedy, Ronald Reagan’s address was based on addressing the prevailing economic problem that the USA was facing. There was runaway inflation, high rates of unemployment and stunted economic growth. In his address, Ronald was concerned with building the Americans confidence in the government. He mentions that he is not the government, but the Americans are the government. In this way, he was rallying the whole populace of Americans individually and collectively to work towards solving their problems. His address was primarily geared towards making the Americans feel part of the United States solution to their problem.
Roosevelt address was primarily geared towards addressing the USA citizen’s fear of the great depression. In his entire speech, he emphasized on the Americans citizens ability to work themselves out of their predicament. It is no wonder in the address he refers to the Americans citizen work ethics. Understanding that the American citizens were tired of endless politics, he reassured the American citizens that he would provide them with an option of a leader who was not only truthful but also committed to driving them out of the depression.
In conclusion, it is evident the inaugural address of Reagan, Kennedy, and Roosevelt had many similarities in the use of the persuasion tools: ethos, pathos, and logos. Through the use of these tools, they were able to gain the attention of their respective audiences. Again, the use of the persuasion tools was geared towards bringing the American citizens to participate in the process of change actively. We have also noted the differences in their inaugural address were mainly on content. This is primarily because the three were faced with different situations.
Kennedy, John F. “Inaugural Address. 1961.” Boorstin, American Primer (1993): 937-43.
Reagan, Ronald. “first inaugural address, January 20, 1981.” Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches (1981)
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. “Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.” World Affairs 96.1 (1933): 26-28.