John F. Kennedy Moon Speech Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3151 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication

John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium, rhetorical analysis of John F. Kennedy's September 12, 1962, Moon Speech - Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas

There is a strong connection between John F. Kennedy, the 35th American President, and the space race occurring throughout the Cold War. Kennedy largely believed that having the upper hand in the space race was a matter of national interest. From his perspective, this was an idea that would emphasize the country's position in the international environment through the message that it expressed. The President's September 12, 1962, Moon Speech at the Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, enabled listeners to gain a more complex understanding of what the space race entailed and of the U.S.' position with regard to the topic. The speech was intended to have listeners involved in making the U.S. "the world's leading space-faring nation." (John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium) This particular speech displays Kennedy's perspective with regard to the space race and the fact that the orator appealed to pathos through having the audience acknowledge that it was essential for it to get actively involved in the space race because of the U.S.' competitiveness and to logos by explaining the logical reasons why people in general need to concentrate on the landing on the moon as being an important step in humanity's progress.

There are a series of motivations that an individual can associate with the act of going to the moon. Ranging from improving the way that the social order understands the universe to the simple idea of succeeding in doing something that poses a lot of problems, reaching the moon was basically an act that raised society's self-esteem and enabled Americans to perceive themselves as a community that was particularly proficient in building impressive technological devices. "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." (John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium)

Kennedy's speech produced much controversy through the way that it addressed the problem of the space race. The American President was determined to provide individuals in Houston with the chance to look at matters from his perspective -- this meant that they needed to acknowledge their position and the fact that it was essential for them to support the mission.

One of the most surprising things about Kennedy is that he initially had a different understanding of U.S.-Soviet relations in the context of space exploration. "His first instinct on coming to the White House had been to seek cooperation in space with the Soviet Union, not competition." (Logsdon) This makes it difficult to think about his speech from a perspective involving U.S.-Soviet relations at the time. It is safe to say that his decision to emphasize the competition between the two world powers was partly owed to the fact that he was well-acquainted with the public's antipathy toward the Soviets.

Kennedy establishes personal credibility by addressing the idea of emphasizing his role as a President and through making it possible for listeners to realize the strong connection between their personal goals and the goals of the country in general. In order to seem knowledgeable, he concentrated on actually having people consider the things they have a limited understanding of rather than the things that they are well-acquainted with. The President addressed this idea by claiming that in spite of how society had experienced particularly impressive technological advancement, "the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension." (John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium)

One can easily observe a series of enthymemes throughout the speech, as Kennedy focused on reason as the most effective tool he could use with the purpose of influencing his listeners to support his type of thinking (Frame 57). By combining this form of argument with ethos and with pathos in particular, the President was determined to produce a speech that would have a strong persuasive effect. Logos was also a concept that he considered, but he put lesser emphasize on it as a result of addressing the slightly less logical reasons why it was important for people to reach the moon. By bringing on the case of George Mallory, an individual who climbed Mount Everest just 'because it is there', Kennedy wanted people to realize that humanity as a whole needed to want to break boundaries just in order to feel better about itself. In addition to the scientific aspect of the benefits of going on the moon, such a journey would present numerous other benefits -- one of the most important of them being related to simply having Americans think about themselves as the first explorers to reach the Moon.

Even with the fact that it is somewhat difficult to identify logos in Kennedy's speech, upon further analysis one can discover a form of syllogistic logic. The speech practically underlines the idea that it would be in the U.S.' best interest to reach the moon, as this would entail a level of discovery that would benefit the people in Houston, the American public, and the world as a whole. Kennedy introduced a process of deductive form in the psychological understanding of listeners (Frame 58). One can address his speech by taking particular ideas and considering them apart from the rest of the arguments. These respective parts can be used with the purpose of understanding the President's exact chain of thoughts.

The very way in which Kennedy describes a journey to the moon demonstrates the degree to which he understood the future. He did not want to give people false hope with regard to their limitations, but he was determined to have them gain a more complex understanding of how it was possible for them to experience significant progress as a consequence of having strength of will. The rocket itself, as he described it, would be "made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stress several times more than have ever been experienced." (John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium) This further supports the idea that the President was unhesitant about emphasizing humanity's limited knowledge about what a mission on the moon would involve. However, it also signals that he was convinced that the U.S. had the resources to perform such a mission and that determination was one of the most important things it needed -- as it was practically more important than building a ship with materials that had not been discovered yet.

Even with the impressive nature of Kennedy's speech, many were not as enthusiastic as he was with regard to the idea of reaching the moon. Americans had barely been able to send a person in space by that time, with Alan Shepard Jr. flying for fifteen minutes and reaching the altitude of 117 miles. Kennedy's statement thus made it difficult for NASA engineers to share his optimism. Conditions were even more critical as a consequence of the President's decision to even set a deadline concerning a moon landing. His use of ethos throughout the speech is downright inspiring, considering that he put the basis for a mission that seemed impossible for the people in charge of organizing it (Higgins 24).

The concept of ethos is present in several occasions during the speech and one can get a better understanding of this respective idea by looking back at how Kennedy had experienced significant success in the past. This was not a person who provided society with a costly and risky mission, as this was a man who managed to get out successfully out of especially critical situations like the Cuban Missile Crisis. The public thus trusted him and believed that he was entitled to propose such a mission, regardless of the fact that it was daring and that the U.S. had both limited resources to complete it and a limited understanding of the factors it entailed. The Ethos appeal thus functioned perfectly in getting people to consider that they needed to act in agreement with their President's expectations.

The appeal to ethos was generally intended to have listeners feel that the country's funds and resources are in good hands. The fact that part of these funds and resources would be invested in spatial exploration was going to benefit the entire nation because of the numerous positive effects that landing on the moon would have on the U.S. While it would be exaggerated to claim that Kennedy had a complex understanding of what the space race would involve, the fact that he was especially knowledgeable when it came to the country's welfare and that he was committed… [END OF PREVIEW]

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