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The study analyses the impact of classical rhetoric such as ethos, logos and pathos on the president and the people. How they have been used in presidential inauguration addresses since time of Abraham Lincoln to modern president Obama. Presidential inauguration addresses are very important because they reveal the kind of president that the people have elected and his ability to rule. In United States, presidential inauguration addresses utilizes classical rhetoric to the maximum thus enabling the president to gauge the mind of his audience and bring the people close to him. These rhetoric includes; Ethos, logos and pathos that have been conspicuous in presidential addresses since the time of Abraham Lincoln to Barrack Obama.

Ethos, pathos and logos in inauguration speech

Ethos may be attributed to the emotional appeal that concerns the author and his credibility. Author's ethos is reliant on the perception of audience of him. If the audience have negative attitude to the author's personality, then they are not likely to win the attention of the audience. It is vital for the author to exercise his charisma and image in order to persuade the audience. Ethos is build after a long time and it takes a single mistake to temper with it (Karyl 45-56). The author should have knowledge about his audience and should posses a healthy and fair dissemination of information. The author should have good and acceptable qualities and virtues in that he should not use dirty tricks to justify his attributes. It is vital that the author also expresses good will and make the audience recognize that he is serious of what he is saying.


The author is ready to put aside his own interests in order to please the audience. The image that the author creates must last during the time of address and stay in the mind of the audience for long time. Ethos is appeal to peoples feeling for long duration. President John F. Kennedy had high ethos in the manner in which he presented himself in 1961 during his inauguration speech. Because of this, many people perceived him to be very dynamic and competent leader of the time (Neil 18-24).

Pathos is attributed to the feelings that author wants to stir up to the audience. Emotions and feelings of authors are affected such as happiness, anger, compassion and excitement known as immediate feelings whereby the author creates internal picture in mind of audience for them to feel like sorrow and happiness they will want to identify with the respective parties. The paper will analyze how the pathos has been used in presidential address for the past twenty years.

Logos are concerned with the speech and information and the arguments that are provided by the author. Logos will refer to the common sense and intellect thus transmitting information in logical manner. Logos are well covered in reference to specific presidential address, in this respect they well manifested in president Obama speech and that of John Kennedy.

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President Kennedy began his inaugural address in January 20th, 1961 which touched on the change of party from republican to democrat where he said looking back for our forbearers and reverence of God. Kennedy in his style, likes to pair the opposite enemy and friend. He showed no interest of egoistic or selfish interest such that he gained the trust the trust of the audience. His ethos continued to develop at high rate across the address with his words, tone and placement making his speech to be one of the best in speech class.  The choice of words reflected his skills and abilities. Where there is need for emphasis, he raises his voice to stress the point. For instance, when he said;

"We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom"

In his words, he referred to change as rekindling of past things and blessings from God that has brought natural rights. He uses his skills to recognize and honor those who participated in revolution by letting its presence known to the whole world. During the speech, Kennedy had a purpose, to drive message of hope to people and at the beginning of the address, he has already accomplished his intended target by saying that new generation of America has been given a torch by encouraging young American to incorporate his words. He said American has been born in this century, disturbed by war and not ready to see the abuse of human rights. This gives him stance and ground in support of human rights so he now moves to pathos.

In his speech in 1865, he tried to unify the people and make them understand the essence of living. To show ethos in his speech, he talked about the war as he knew it and its consequences making the audience to be curious on what he was about to tell them. He also talked of the savagery that had existed for the last four years as nothing short of Gods punishment for the atrocities and sins of human slavery.

The pathos are seen in his words where he says that ,we hope and pray this scourge of war might end and if God wills, it will go on until all wealth taken illegally will all sunk, every drop of blood drawn by sword will be paid by sword and that the judgment of the lord is true and righteous. Abraham Lincoln just like john F. Kennedy expresses his words in logical manner that made people to understand what he was saying at a time when America was in crisis of war and that morality of Americans had depreciated. Lincoln's speech contained pathos in that he created the picture in mind of the audience of how people suffered in slavery. Logos are manifested through how he intellectual thinks of the current situation.

Modern presidential inauguration address: Obama

At the time he was addressing the audience, it was very vital for Obama to convince the Americans that they had chosen the person to lead them at the time of current crisis. To accomplish his mission, he worked on his ethos. In his address, he says that he stands in front of them humbled by the task that was ahead of them, thankful for the trust they have in him and mindful of sacrifices borne by our forefathers. In these words, Obama assures people that he is aware of the big responsibility in front of him. Obama also shows his commitment to serve his people in that, he is well aware that people expect him to do his best to solve the problems they are facing and appropriate actions (Neil 47-59). Also Obama criticized the Bush administration just like John F. Kennedy did to the previous republican administration although in a different manner. By saying that, they have come to proclaim an end to false promises, petty grievance and outdated dogmas that for a long time had strangled their nation. Logos is not well shown in his speech because he does not appeal to intellect and the address do not contain arguments but have only claims that lack warrants thus making the argument defective. In address, pathos appeal are revealed in the sense that, he pronounce we and our.

The use of these pronounce shows that him and the people have something in common, they are together to solve their problems and obtaining their objectives. The issue of historical virtues is seen in Obama's speech about those people who worked hard to build United States of America thus raising the emotions of the people. He tells them how hard they fought and worked to the country the way it is. He says that these people make upcoming generation and that the present people have to move on despite the hard times otherwise the efforts of the past generation would be a waste (James 44-61). 

He uses pathos to make American people to be responsible and they have to soldier on even at time of crisis. He also touches on the poor people by saying that they ready to work with poor nations and make them flourish and end poverty. This creates the picture of poverty stricken African children starving with nothing to put in his stomach.

The inaugural addresses for does not share common themes because this president are elected at different time when needs of people are different. For instance, during the time of Lincoln, it was time of slavery and civil war. The time of Kennedy was time of cold war and time of obama is during economic crisis and two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the speeches share traditional customs and virtues where the American culture is praised.

In American presidential speech, ethos, pathos and logos are usually manifested in that the audience always need assurance of the president will perform his duty. As seen above, the classical rhetoric have been well utilized by American president thus making the audience attentive to what they are saying. These speeches are not made of same themes because of difference in needs and expectations of people.

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