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I need to find the thesis and main points of his argument.

President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. January 20, 1961.

Text is in the public domain.
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President
Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy,
fellow citizens:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--
symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well
as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same
solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and threequarters
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the
power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.
And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought
are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come
not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let
the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that
the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in
this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace,
proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the
slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always
been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and
around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay
any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge--and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we
pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in
a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do--for we
dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we
pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed
away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not
always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always
hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom--and to
remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding
the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to
break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help
them help themselves, for whatever period is required--not because the
communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but
because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge--to
convert our good words into good deeds--in a new alliance for progress-
-to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of
poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of
hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them
to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let
every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the
master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last
best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the
instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support--to prevent it
from becoming merely a forum for invective--to strengthen its shield of
the new and the weak--and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we
offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest
for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science
engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are
sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will
never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort
from our present course--both sides overburdened by the cost of
modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the
deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that
stays the hand of mankind's final war.
So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a
sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never
negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring
those problems which divide us.
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise
proposals for the inspection and control of arms--and bring the absolute
power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.
Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its
terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate
disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of
Isaiah--to "undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free."
And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of
suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new
balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and
the weak secure and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be
finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this
Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final
success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each
generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its
national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call
to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though
arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a
call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out,
"rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common
enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North
and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all
mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been
granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I
do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that
any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other
generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this
endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from
that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-
-ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but
what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask
of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we
ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history
the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's
work must truly be our own.

  • English -

    What do you think President Kennedy was saying?

    What do you think the main idea is? What is his thesis statement?

    What were the main points that he used to support his thesis?

    I'll be glad to comment on your answers.

  • English -

    could his thesis statement be in the middle of his speech?

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-
    -ask what you can do for your country.
    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but
    what together we can do for the freedom of man.

  • English -

    Yes! The first is the prime thesis statement because he's addressing Americans.

  • English -

    So that thesis summarizes the main goal of his speech? I am having trouble finding the main arguments of this speech

  • English -

    What arguments did Kennedy use to try to convince people to help their country?

  • English -

    i thought that the entire speech was based around the main point that you give and you get. but i do not know how this ties back to the main arguments? .. I am so lost.

  • English -

    I disagree. I think the main idea (thesis statement) is much closer to the beginning of the speech. I believe the "ask not" part of the speech is the beginning of the conclusion.

    I'd say you need to rethink this.

  • English -

    "Observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change."

    as the thesis?

  • English -

    It needs to be more specific than that. In his thesis he begins the ideas about what "we" will do during his presidency.

    I think this is the thesis: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay
    any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
    oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

    If I'm right, what points explain what he intends?

  • English -

    Please read what I posted above.

  • English -


  • English -

    thank you so much for that link!

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