Equal Rights for All Citizens in America


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Can you imagine if America did not have equal rights for all citizens? Luckily, today’s society is not like that. However, the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was a time when the Civil Rights Movement broke out. Many groups of angry people different from each other came together to fight for the rights they knew they deserved. African Americans spoke out against segregation in public places, women called attention to equal pay for both genders, and many other cultures argued about their rights as well. This was a time when white men got treated better than everyone else in the country. The many Americans crying out for their rights needed a powerful, influential leader to speak up for them and persuade the entire nation that everyone should be equal no matter who they are. We have all heard of this address, though probably in history class which is where I first heard of it. Former president, John F. Kennedy stepped up and addressed the nation on radio and television with a great speech concerning civil rights.

The speech was made in response to the U.S. National Guard that was sent to protect African American students enrolling at the University of Alabama. These students were being threatened and harassed because of their race. It’s ridiculous to think that students who were deserving of a proper education had to be escorted in their college. That shows just how unfair our country once was. The discrimination against African Africans was simply unjust.

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John F. Kennedy was someone who sympathized with the different groups who were not getting treated as they should have been treated. On June 11th of 1963, Kennedy delivered a powerful speech on behalf of the groups who so desperately needed to be heard. He made it clear that everyone was created equal and should share the same rights by stating, “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” He addressed the issues of voting, segregated education, work, and treatment. The words he used and the statements that he made left an impression in millions of minds. It was his message directed to America and to Congress that helped make a difference in The Civil Rights Movement that will always be remembered.

Kennedy had such an effective way of speaking. Ethos, logos, and pathos were stood out clearly when he spoke. Kennedy’s ethos was displayed when spoke with language that was appropriate for all Americans and when he showed expertise in what he was presenting to the nation. He obviously presented himself in way that made him seem like he was full of words that were intelligent and meaningful. His speaking laid out his core values as he stood in front of everyone stating that is was wrong to treat people differently based on the color of their skin or their race. He portrayed himself as genuine and respectful by taking the time to speak about huge concerns of his such as when he talked about African American children suffering from inadequate education due to segregated schools. He explained how it was hard for African Americans to have a chance at getting a decent job because of the situation they got put in regarding education. He was respectful in calling upon Congress to end segregation. He did not use any rude or vulgar language, he simply just explained the issue and asked for a change. The calmness in his tone demonstrated that was peaceful in his effort to make a difference. Along with all those traits that Kennedy displayed to the public, the one that stood out to me was his loyalty to all Americans. He recognized all people of this nation in his address and wholeheartedly committed himself to making sure they could live freely and happily. Kennedy showed his true loyalty by informing the public that he has, “recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination, and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last two weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the court.” Kennedy’s ethos in this speech present him as a powerful, respectable speaker with strong values and genuine care for all people.

Aside from having a great ethos in his speaking, Kennedy’s logos is what reassured the nation on pushing for civil rights. The logic and reason that Kennedy presented proved that America needed to make a change to better the country. In an authoritative voice, Kennedy discussed the difference between blacks and whites. He claimed, “Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. This statement is entirely true because it does not make sense to separate American citizens by races inside the country, but allow all races fight together in battle across the seas. If all men can be drafted then all men should be equal to one another in all situations, not just in war. Kennedy properly used logos to support all nationalities. Equal rights must be logical if everyone is given equal responsibility.

Lastly out of the three rhetorical appeals, pathos takes on an emotional appeal in the address. Kennedy persuaded Americans to become involved in civil rights by appealing to their emotions. His statement, “Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality,” shows us that Kennedy wanted the country to recognize that if they stood by and watched their fellow citizens argue about civil rights without doing anything about it, they would just be shaming their own nation by allowing those disturbances in peace to continue. Of course, nobody wants to feel guilty about sitting back and letting peace be destroyed. That line in Kennedy’s address encouraged Americans to do something about the issues going on in their society. Kennedy used pathos very well. Also, by providing the imagery of the struggle that African Americans went through on a daily basis evoked sympathy in the minds of those who heard the speech. Kennedy used words like “suffer” and “injustice” to make Americans feel bad for those who are negatively affected by the issues related to civil rights. Such strong emotional appeals were useful in drawing in concern from everyone.

Additionally, it was very noticeable that President Kennedy used a lot of repetition in his speech. For the president, this was an efficient way to use rhetoric. Kennedy used the phrase, “”it ought to be possible” to make it known that it is possible to make a nation one that is equal and fair for all. The assertions, “it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal,” “It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troop” and “It ought to to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation,” are so powerful in demonstrating that there is in fact a way to make these simple rights a part of American society. Kennedy described this nation as one that is “founded on the principle that all men are created equal.” He repeated that to make it clear what Abraham Lincoln previously stated, nothing changes that fact that everyone deserves to be treated equally. The repetition in these phrases really were helpful in getting important points across to Americans.

In conclusion, John F. Kennedy uses ethos, logos, and pathos effectively in his rhetorical strategies during his speech. All three of these rhetorical approaches came together in harmony to create what I believe to be a success. His use of rhetorical appeals along with his repetition of phrases did in fact make a great speech. His promotion of civil rights did not end after that speech. Instead, it continued to play a role in American life and was even carried out by President Lyndon B. Johnson.   

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