Rhetorical Devices of Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

Kennedy's speech was given in response to the discovery of Soviet missiles discovered in Cuba.
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On October 22, 1962 President John F. Kennedy delivered his Cuban Missile Crisis speech on television to alert Americans that Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba and that the United States would use military force if necessary. An analysis of the speech reveals several rhetorical devices used to convince Americans that the Soviets posed a threat.

1 Analysis of Kennedy's Speech

Kennedy used a technique called anaphora, or the repetition of the first part of a sentence for added effect, when he said Cuba will be “free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation.” He used alliteration, such as “large, long-range missiles.” He also used metaphor, when he said that “the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouths." In her 2007 analysis of the speech published in "Gnovis Journal," Megan Weintraub describes Kennedy's use of the metaphorical construct of a container, in which he separated the Western hemisphere from the threat of communism. Containment was also the U.S. strategy in regard to communism. Apposition, a grammatical construction by which two elements are placed side by side to modify one another, appears in the phrase “…and our history – unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War II – demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any other nation.”

Colette Phair has written and edited for nationally distributed publications and several nonprofit organizations. She is the author of "Nightmare in Silicon" and has published short fiction alongside the likes of Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of California Santa Cruz.