President John F. Kennedy’s Main Asset As a Speaker

Ever since John F. Kennedy grew to become a outstanding public determine, political pundits and rhetorical students have tried to dissect why he captivated audiences so compellingly throughout his hundreds of speeches, press conferences, and interviews.

Some critics cite his eager wit as his main asset. One in every of his most celebrated remarks occurred at a dinner for Nobel Prize winners. Kennedy quipped: “There has by no means been a larger focus of mental energy right here on the White Home since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Different analysts credit score his language mastery. No matter whether or not the phrases originated from Ted Sorensen or different presidential speech writers, the completed product got here from Kennedy’s mouth. 5 many years later, this stirring problem grips listeners and readers: “Ask not what your nation can do for you, ask what you are able to do in your nation.”

Was Kennedy’s pronounced New England accent-unfamiliar to People in different sections of the country-what stored audiences attentive? Presumably some viewers members needed to pay attention carefully sufficient to translate the Boston brogue into their very own regional dialect. Too, some listeners thought of his accent uncommon sufficient to be charming.

Positively, there’s justification for claiming that Kennedy’s bodily bearing and hanging presence boosted his persuasive energy. Repeatedly, supporters and journalists mentioned he “appeared presidential.”

Though every of those 4 factors-keen wit, language mastery, distinctive accent, and bodily bearing-contributed to President Kennedy’s winsomeness, one different issue reigns supreme over these: Kennedy’s unparalleled degree of power whereas he spoke.

Take into account the torpid supply of his contemporaries. Dwight Eisenhower mumbled, rambled, corrected his errors, after which began once more, nonetheless undecided the place he was headed. Lyndon Johnson’s ponderous drawl generated extra yawns than applause. Adlai Stevenson got here throughout as a stereotypical professor lecturing in a sleep-inducing monotone. Hubert Humphrey might take an hour to say what he might have coated in 5 minutes.

Against this, Kennedy embodied the “vigah” (his household’s manner of claiming “vigor”) he envisioned for the nation. His gestures had been sweeping and highly effective. His commanding voice mirrored whole dedication to his subject. His alert posture (which we now know belied his bodily ache) portrayed excessive confidence. His spontaneous interplay with audiences, particularly throughout press conferences, eliminated suspicion that his displays had been canned. Even his stroll to the rostrum demonstrated eagerness to start out his message.

Roger Ailes, as soon as a speech coach for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, suggested:

“As an alternative of attempting to recollect a number of speech variables-like pitch, charge, quantity, and gestures-just bear in mind ‘power’ and all of the variables will deal with themselves.”

President John Kennedy stays considered one of historical past’s sensible examples of how a speaker with terribly excessive power can inform, inspire, entertain, and persuade audiences at a degree that generations will remember-and applaud.

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