“We Choose to Go to the Moon”

This speech was given by President John F. Kennedy at Rice University on September 12, 1969 when he announced the United States would go to the moon. This was not only a jab at Soviet Union, who was competing against the United States in the infamous Space Race, but also a moral boost to unite Americans under a common goal.

One rhetorical technique Kennedy uses is when he simplifies humanity’s history and achievements into a 24 hour clock. This exemplifies the significance of a moon landing not just for the scientific community, but for mankind in general. It is imperative to keep the words and concepts simple in a speech because the audience can only hear them one time, and pathos, ethos, and logos are useless if the target audience can’t understand the rhetoric being presented.

The environment Mr. Kennedy is standing in also shows ethos. A big American Flag behind him, a crowd of supportive government officials, and a podium with the Presidential emblem all serve to show the power and influence of the President and the United States government. To the target audience of Americans it could be a message of prestige and authority, but for the Soviet Union audience, it could be a message of power and resilience.

We can also look at the iconic line: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” This is an appeal to ethos. The American ideal of working hard and against the odds is a strong rhetorical commonplace for American citizens. This statement, while being incredibly quotable, also encapsulates the ethos and pathos of the Moon mission: For humanity to do something seemingly impossible simply for the challenge. It is a message designed to inspire, and judging by the crowd’s response and popularity of the speech today, it did just that.


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