Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The secrets of Kennedy's speech giving skills

Been enjoying reading excerpts from I have a dream-The speeches that changed history,  a book given to me at Christmas. I was quite taken with this quote from JFK's inaugural address in 1961.
'The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe-the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of state but from the hand of God'

There's an excellent analysis of the whole speech on the BBC website here. The writer suggests that there are six features of his speech which make it so effective
  • 1. Contrasts
  • 2. Three-part lists
  • 3. Contrasts combined with lists
  • 4. Alliteration
  • 5. Bold imagery
  • 6. Audience analysis
On the subject of contrasts, the author writes
For Kennedy, contrasts were the preferred weapon, coming as they did at a rate of about one every 39 seconds in this particular speech. Some were applauded and some have survived among the best-remembered lines.
He began with three consecutive contrasts:
  • "We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom"
  • "Symbolizing an end as well as a beginning"
  • "Signifying renewal as well as change"
From the 20 or so he used, other widely quoted contrasts, all of which were applauded, include:
  • "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich"
  • "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate"
  • "My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man"
Ah well I ask not that the few who read this will forget it, but that they will tell the many orators out there to get contrasting.
Watch the speech here and see further analysis.
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