A Comparison Between Speeches by MLK and JFK

Martin Luthor King and John F. Kennedy have made passionate legendary speeches. They deserve to be analyzed and even compared to help us learn how to make extravagant speeches that show our burning passion. Surely if we can find what they both do similarily, we can learn how to implement their affinities into our speeches to increase our capacity at crafting speeches.

We will be analyzing a non-televised speech for MLK. This speech took place in a church after a riot that prevented a ruling passed by the supreme court that stated that Alabama schools could not prevent a person from entering because of race. MLK sets up an ethos claim to verify that his message is sent from God himself and that what their fighting for is God’s will. He even says that “(The fight against racism is) a spiritual war”.

The fact that this was held in a church and him backing up his claim by making biblical references helps his argument. He doesn’t just stop at references though, he quotes Bible verses as well. “Think not that I am come to bring peace. I come not to bring peace but a sword.” is a straight verse from the bible. He understands who his audience is and knows that they’re religious. MLK does so much more than use biblical reference and verses to justify himself towards the audience. He does things that take deep intellectual thought when reading and are not as easily recognizable as references.

MLK redefines peace within his speech. He explains that normally we see peace as the act of calmness. However, peace is redefined as retaliation against the wrongs and injustices within this world without the use of violent means. He quotes a Bible verse here as well with the classic “I come not to bring peace but a sword”. He further explains himself saying “ Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force–war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force–justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God”. This type of peace is a firm and strong peace; one that rebels with firm resistance but without violence.

JFK’s I am a Berliner speech is a passionate speech that requires understanding before compared. The speech is set in Berlin during the time after the country was split in two after the events of Germany’s loss in World War II. One side of the country was being crushed under the weight of communism created by the Soviet Union. The other side experienced the joy of freedom and democracy given to them by Great Britain and the United States. These two massive ideologies were separated by a wall only a twelve feet tall and 18-inch wall(Royal Air Force Museum: National Cold War Exhibition).

Since the people he is speaking to are broken under the weight of communism, he chooses to be very comforting. He uses the pain that they’ve witnessed to try to win them over to his side and prove to them that he’s not bad and neither is democratic government. He makes sure to use Ethos so the people will listen to what he has to say. Both of these magnificent speeches start off their actual argument with ethos.MLK states that the message that he brings is from God himself. JFK gives the Berliners pride and compliments them until slowly and then points out the credibility of himself and then democracy by comparing it to the faults of communism that crushed these people initially. The crowd is similar despite how it appears initially. They both experienced being crushed by a loss against an oppressive majority.

The loss for MLK’s speech was against the racist white men and women of Alabama who fought to keep a brave black girl segregated from a white school. The Berliners were defeated by the reign of communism for almost a painful twenty years. They were found at a place with fleeting hope. Both speeches move on to a fair amount of repetition that shows the passion that the speaker is exuding. “Let them come to Berlin” and “If peace means…” are used to create a build-up of excitement within the audience.

Both push to redefine peace. JFK says so with “Real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice”. Their structures show similarity. Both of these speeches have their similarities and differences. They are legendary and attempt to redefine peace. They take their stands in a time where the people find themselves discouraged. They push against a regime bigger than the people, one being communism and the other racism. They set themselves and their message up with different forms of ethos. The similarities will help us when writing our own arguments by increasing our skill.

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