50 Years Later
Aspiring writers in our industry could do worse than to study John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, which celebrates it's 50th anniversary today. Widely considered to be one of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century, Kennedy's short address gave us such enduring turns of phrase as, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate" and, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."
The Kennedys had a preternatural talent for rhetoric. Check out RFK's extemporaneous announcement of the death of Dr Martin Luther King, one of my all-time favorite speeches, or Teddy's own beautiful eulogy for Robert.
Perhaps, touched as they were were by such tragedy and tumult, the Kennedys were perversely fortunate to have lived through a time that lent itself to soaring oratory. Perhaps that explains the current dearth of good speeches and the fact that even our greatest living orators, including the President, can occasionally sound like poor JFK impersonators.