An Analysis of John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address

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At the height of the Cold War, racial tensions in the United States were also reaching a breaking point. This era brought with it many of the seminal events in civil-rights history: the start of the Freedom Rides in 1961, the University of Mississippi’s admission of its first black student, and the Birmingham riots of 1963. While America struggled with the ever-present threat of nuclear war, this other kind of conflict threatened to undermine and demoralize America from within. It is 11 June, 1963, and the Alabama National Guardsmen are called to the University of Alabama to ensure the safe admission of two black students. That same afternoon, John F. Kennedy addresses the nation in an attempt to sooth flared tempers on both sides of the…show more content…
World War II and the Nazi regime, though supplanted by fears of nuclear conflict and communism, would surely be a painful memory for many Americans. This allusion to the espoused ideologies of Hitler and his ilk was calculated to associate segregation with those ideas. This is a further emotional appeal to the patriotism of Americans. His audience would be instantly repulsed by the idea of having such similarities to a despot and dictatorship, the antithesis of the very things which they love. It is also a logical appeal; to suggest that America would love her ideals and yet not adhere to them is illogical. By drawing attention to this, Kennedy further impresses upon his audience the need for change, and their duty in that change. During this call for change, Kennedy does not alienate his audience by putting himself above the need for reform. Throughout the text he speaks with an unequivocal tone, but also draws attention to his own status as a citizen. He greets the audience as “fellow citizens”; he uses inclusive words such as “us” and “we”; he goes on to describe the actions he personally intends to take. In this way, he is communicating to his audience that he is not absolved of responsibility because of his presidency, but equally responsible because he is equally a citizen of the nation. In the
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