Mr. Kyle King
September 28, 2013
To the Moon
The speech I chose was delivered by President John F. Kennedy on May 25th, 1961, in front of the Joint Commission in Congress. Titled, Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs, the speech was delivered in the midst of the Cold War between Russia and the United States. Russia recently launched a number of satellites into orbit, the most landmark of which was Sputnik I, effectively pulling ahead in the space race. In addition, they had recently launched Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin into orbit around the Earth, becoming the first country in history to put a man in space. Both accomplishments received massive public attention around the world, and began to establish Russia as the superior nation in the Cold War.
As president of the United States, John F Kennedy needed to both re-establish public moral in United States citizens after these recent events, as well as re-affirm the United States’ power as a country. During the Space expert of his speech to the United States Congress, utilizing both his popular standing with the public and his authority from his office to draw attention, President John F Kennedy appeals to the patriotism of the United States population, as well as their rivalry with Russia during the Cold War era. In addition, JFK utilizes logical arguments regarding tertiary benefits of expanding the space program and national security as arguments to support the necessity of the United States pursuing a moon-landing operation.
John F Kennedy was an extremely popular president. With an average public approval rating of 70.1 percent throughout his term as president, he was the most popular president in history after World War II. The vast majority of the public trusts him and listens to what he has to say. In addition, Congress would have to take actions on JFK’s words, or risk backlash from their constituents when their Congressional seats were due for re-election. President John F Kennedy’s approval rating did much to establish his credibility when delivering his speech to Congress, and drastically increased the chances that Congress would take action on the points specified in the speech.
In addition to being a popular public figure, John F Kennedy was also the president of the United States. The Presidential seat is a huge position of authority. To become president, one must have vast knowledge of the departments and independent agencies under their control. One of the independent agencies under the leadership the president is NASA. JFK hand picked the leader of NASA, and demonstrated clear collaboration with said leadership in his speech by stating “With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chair of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not” (first para. of speech). By demonstrating that he understands the topic he discusses, he strengthens his appearance on an informed president, bringing more power to his arguments set forth in this section of his speech.
Probably his most powerful appeal in the speech was John F Kennedy’s appeal to the patriotism of the United States citizens. Throughout his speech, he idealizes the United States as as an exemplary example of a free nation, and portrays Russia as a nation of tyranny. Near the beginning of his speech, JFK states “if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny” (beginning of speech). This statement portrays Russia as a tyraniccal and corrupt nation to the audience, while idealizing the United States as a free nation. Later on in his speech, JFK states; “We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.” (P3 end). Again, this quote further portays the United States as an exemplary free nation, stimulating the enthusiasm of the American audience. In addition, JFK also negative terms, such as “exploit” and “head-start” to describe Russia and its actions, further damaging the character of the projected enemy in this speech. By painting Russia as a threat to the paramount example of a free nation known as the United States, John F Kennedy appeals to the patriotic freedom loving character of his American audience, drastically increasing public support in the actions dictated in his speech.
JFK also gathers support by creating a sense of urgency. Near the beginning of his speech, JFK states “the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks have made clear to us, as did Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere,” (First Para). This statement, made near the beginning of the speech, clearly demonstrates the immense progress Russia has made in the space race, and makes it appear that the United States is falling behind. This urgency makes the audience more likely to support action to shrink this gap.
Finally, JFK appeals to his audience by demonstrating immense confidence in the ability of his nation. The most obvious example of this appeal is demonstrated in the statement; “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to Earth,” (somewhere). The United States had not even put a man in orbit, yet JFK showed believe in his nation that they could doing, later saying “ I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary,” (Para 2, Line 1) to do so. This statement alone, coming from the president of the United States, would have resulted in a massive increase in public confidence in the United States. The statement helped to erase the USA’s failing to the Soviet Union in the past, and instead allows them to focus on the future.
JFK also utilizes logical arguments to convince both the public and Congress to support a lunar landing. President Kennedy justifies the expense on the research in developing new technologies required to reach the moon by pointing out the secondary benefits such technologies will allow the United States to have. In his speech, he cites possible secondary benefits as “a satellite system for world-wide weather observation,” as well as new methods of space travel that could potentially take us “beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself,”. He supports this assertion with his statement “all of you have lived through the last four years and seen the significance of space and the adventures of space,”. By referring to the benefits previous space voyages, such as Voyager 1 and Juno 1 , brought their respective countries, JFK was able to justify that future research in space travel would do the same.
John F Kennedy’s space Excerpt of his Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs made quite brilliant use of rhetorical appeals, given the context of the speech, as well as the intended audience. As the president of the United States, the declarations made in the speech would carry a lot of weight. The fact that he was an extremely popular president makes his audience, the citizens of the United States, more inclined to trust his assertions. By appealing to the patriotism of the United States, and portraying the space race as a battle between a nation of tyrannical ideals (Russia) and a nation with virtuous intent (United States), as well as demonstrating immense confidence in the United States’ ability to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, JFK strongly appeals to the emotional side of the audience. Finally, by justifying the expenditure on research and equipment by stating that they will bring many advances in technologies that could benefit other form divisions, such as weather forecasting, JFK utilizes logical arguments to convince his audience. Utilizing all of these rhetorical appeals, John F Kennedy was successful in convincing Congress of sending a man to the moon, a feat that ultimately re-established both public and world confidence in the strength of the United States.