John F. Kennedy Compared to Martin Luther King Jr.

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Throughout history, several important speeches have highlighted the importance of our freedoms, liberty, and national unity. Notable among these speeches are John F. Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address” and Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream.” Although these speeches share some similarities, they also differ in terms of style, target audience, and subject matter. Both speeches make references to past events, call for change, and express hopes for peace.

In Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address,” he emphasizes the need for national unity and the pursuit of peace with our adversaries (Kennedy 11). Meanwhile, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech advocates granting freedom to all races of humanity. Kennedy warns of potential violence if the hostility between the United States and other nations persists, asserting that America will oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas and maintain control over its own destiny (Kennedy 9). This ideology aligns with Theodore Roosevelt’s aphorism of “walk softly but carry a big stick” (Roosevelt). Conversely, King discourages violence, acknowledging that without change, unrest and upheaval are inevitable. He ardently declares that true justice will not be achieved until the African American community is granted their citizenship rights (King 2), although he hopes this transformation can be achieved with minimal bloodshed.

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Contrary to some beliefs that King’s peaceful approach implied a lack of dedication to change, this speech contradicts such notions. In his address, King expressed a yearning for a transformation in the bond between whites and African Americans. He proclaimed, “I envision a future where one day, in Alabama where its governor expresses resistance and rejection; someday right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to hold hands with little white boys and white girls as brothers and sisters. I have this dream today!” (King 3)

Both King and Kennedy shared a commitment to promoting unity and equality for all, regardless of race. King emphasized that everyone is equal, irrespective of their skin color, as stated in the constitution. His dedication to this idea remains influential today. Similarly, Kennedy discussed the importance of achieving global harmony, particularly between the United States and Russia. He advocated for an end to discord and the establishment of a new friendship.

Kennedy (14) predicted that if peace with our enemies was not achieved, it could result in mankind’s ultimate war. Kennedy desired this change to prevent nuclear devastation of the world. To promote this change, Kennedy stressed the importance of renewing patriotism in America. As a call for patriotism, Kennedy urged fellow Americans with the famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” (25) In his speech, he repeatedly emphasizes “We pledge,” showcasing his unwavering commitment to the downfall of the United States of America.

Despite being delivered more than 50 years ago, this speech continues to be praised for its patriotic message. Kennedy emphasized the promotion of patriotism, while King utilized repetition to effectively convey his point. To this day, the use of repetition in King’s speech remains a widely discussed topic. During his address to the United States, King first uttered the iconic phrase “I have a dream.” Within it, he expressed his aspirations for a future where his four children would reside in a nation that evaluates individuals based on their character rather than their racial identity.

I have a dream today! ” (King 3) The repetition of this statement reflects King’s perspective on the need to change the rights and liberties afforded to African Americans. In addition to this recurring phrase, King also utilized the phrase “One hundred years later…” in order to connect historical events to the present day. In doing so, King highlighted the ongoing mistreatment and discrimination against African Americans. Similarly, Kennedy incorporated elements of the past into his speech by discussing America’s founding principles and the lack of support from other nations.

Kennedy desired to bring about a change where every nation would set aside their differences and back each other’s perspectives on freedoms. These speeches contributed to the realization of both transformations, whether it was African Americans attaining equality or America surpassing the Russian threat. The similarities and differences between John F. Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address” and Martin Luther Kings Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech solidified them as two of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered in America.

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