Kennedy barely knew his Inaugural Address

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

I’m watching Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. I guess it’s been many years since the last time I saw it. I love the text of this speech. And I love studying great rhetoric.

But now, watching it again, I’m astonished at how hesitant he is. He keeps looking down at his notes. Yet it’s a short speech. He could have easily memorized it. I would have memorized it. How often do you get sworn in as President of the USA? Anyone elected to that position is aware that they will be remembered to history thanks to their Inaugural Address. Is this the way he wanted to be remembered?

Why not commit the speech to memory? I would have memorized it — that would take me 2 or 3 hours, and he could have easily done it the day before. As it is, many of his pauses come at awkward moments. I’m surprised, perhaps disappointed. It feels to much like he’s reading a speech written by someone else, rather than telling us what is in his heart. Great rhetoric should often sound like it comes from someone’s heart. When a minister tells me that God loves me, I expect the minister to sound like they themselves believe that assertion in their heart.