There are unique values that every American citizen holds. According to each individual, some values have more weight than others. But without a doubt, freedom and peace are two essential values that every American seeks and expects to possess. Both President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and President Lyndon Baines Johnson made these qualities a priority for the country during their times as Presidents, specifically in their respected speeches. In his commencement address at American University, Kennedy explains that the peace will come to the United States when the people come together as one and focus on strength and integrity. In the speech known as The Great Society, Johnson also makes this point, but in a contrasting fashion. Johnson makes the stance that the people must come together with pride, trust, and support for their nation and its leaders in order for peace to come into action. John F. Kennedy aims to inspire the American citizens to aim for peace through an image individualism, whereas Lyndon B. Johnson focuses on bringing people to focus on strengthening the nation through pride and nationalism. A better sense of peace will come through the thought process of Kennedy advocating the American citizen to focus more on the wellbeing of themselves and their fellow citizens than the contentment of government officials.
The President with a powerful stance on freedom, civil rights, and peace had a very colorful life story. The John F. Kennedy Library’s website states, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born May 29, 1917 in Massachusetts. Kennedy would be go to Harvard College and join the Navy. After returning home, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his leadership and courage. The future president would begin working in politics. He would become a representative, senator, then finally nominated as a candidate for presidency on July 13, 1960. At the age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest man elected president and the first Catholic to fill the position. On June 10, 1963, Kennedy would deliver a commencement address for American University graduates. In this time in history, the tensions of the Cold War and aches for peace were beginning to peak.
President Johnson lived a life full of caring actions and dedication to his country. According to whitehouse.gov, the future prominent figure in American politics was born in Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908. Going to school at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Lyndon Baines Johnson would spend countless hours teaching disadvantaged students of Mexican descent. He would then become a US representative, join the navy, return to become a Senator, run as John F. Kennedy’s running mate, and would be sworn in as president after JFK’s assassination.
To give context of the time period of the speeches, it is important to understand that the speeches were only 11 months and 12 days apart from each other. Both Kennedy and Johnson were feeling pressure in the ever-rising tension of the Cold War. The American citizens wanted a resolution to the conflict and was simply seeking peace. Peace is a very hot topic and emotion-filled word at the time of these speeches. As he gives the commencement speech at American University, Kennedy is the figurehead for American liberty after being very passionate about the subject of freedom and peace in the past, and Johnson has an even bigger problem on his plate because of the nation still being shaken up by the assassination of Kennedy.
In both speeches, many devices to push rhetoric are utilized. Kennedy mainly uses tools such as alliteration, antithesis, and repetition. A great example of Kennedy utilizing antithesis to push the attractive rhetoric of individualism is when he states, I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time. President Kennedy uses antithesis to make sure that the actions that Americans can make for themselves, not only makes the peace more prominent in America, but also in foreign nations. Johnson puts alliteration, repetition, and juxtaposition to use to push his message of nationalism. A very dangerous example of Johnson using a device to push his rhetoric of nationalism and eventual authoritarianism comes in the concluding paragraphs of The Great Society speech is when he utilizes repetition. Four paragraphs all start out will the line, Will you join. Questions like Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty? are asked. While this question seems harmless, Lyndon B. Johnson has put a sinister twist of submission to America’s powerful political leaders. The repetition of will you join is a constant push for the yielding of the American people.
In the two presidents’ speeches, both use similar tactics through propaganda elements. Both head of states are constantly using plain folks appeal to seem more approachable and possibly easier to agree with. They are constantly saying using words such as our and we to get on the same level of the American people. Kennedy consistently uses this to bring the connection back to the idea that we are to solve this problem ourselves. This point is very explicit in the following excerpt from the commencement speech speaking about those who believe peace is impossible, It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made; therefore, they can be solved by man. In this piece from the text, Kennedy uses plain folks appeal to explain that peace comes through individualism, while Johnson uses the propaganda element to shame the American public into blaming them for the growth of urban areas in America. As Johnson tries to put the American people on the same level of himself, he states, So in the next 40 years we must rebuild the entire urban United States. The state of urban America is because of the injustice and poor actions of the political leaders, not because the American people are doing something wrong.
To assist in proving their points, Kennedy and Johnson both uses organizational patterns. To push the idea of selfhood, Kennedy utilizes cause and effect. Kennedy stresses that unity towards the goal of individualism will result in a peaceful nation. This way the peaceful effects individualism is a very effective and morally sound action. To push the idea of capitulation and nationalism, Johnson utilizes classification. Johnson categorizes his paragraphs with different meanings and goals, all of which are aimed towards nationalism. In the beginning of the speech, Johnson focuses on the false importance of making America the most powerful nation on Earth. Throughout the text, Johnson aims more to explain what the government must do to give itself more power to take the rights away from countless groups of American citizens. This powerful organizational pattern of classification is used for dishonorable reasons.
In the final analysis, John F. Kennedy’s way of going about peace through individualism and self analysis to strengthen the nation is far more effective than Lyndon B. Johnson’s advocation of national pride and reliance on public leader figures. With this information, one may make their own opinion on what most effectively puts peace into action. While doing this, it’s important to keep in mind the dangers of becoming reliant on your nation’s leaders and becoming too supportive of your country’s actions. For when nationalism becomes a higher priority than liberty, rights are taken from those not in power.
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