Accent Modification On Individuals Who Speak More Than Two Languages President John F. Kennedy’s Major Asset As a Speaker

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President John F. Kennedy’s Major Asset As a Speaker

Ever since John F. Kennedy became a prominent public figure, political pundits and rhetorical scholars have sought to explore why he so compellingly captivated audiences during his thousands of speeches, press conferences, and interviews.

Some critics point to his sharp wit as his main asset. One of his most famous speeches was at a dinner for Nobel laureates. “Never since Thomas Jefferson dined alone has intellectual power been so concentrated here in the White House,” Kennedy quipped.

Other analysts appreciate his language skills. Whether the words came from Ted Sorensen or other presidential speechwriters, the finished product came from Kennedy’s mouth. Five decades later, this rousing call resonates with listeners and readers: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy’s New England accent was unfamiliar to Americans in other parts of the country – what caught the audience’s attention? Perhaps some viewers had to listen closely enough to translate the Boston brogue into their own regional dialect. Some listeners also found his accent fascinatingly unusual.

There is certainly reason to argue that Kennedy’s physical strength and imposing presence enhanced his persuasive power. His supporters and journalists have repeatedly said that he “looks like the president”.

Although each of these four factors—a sharp mind, mastery of language, distinctive accent, and physical stamina—contributed to President Kennedy’s courage, another factor stood out above them: Kennedy’s unparalleled level of energy when he spoke.

Consider the lethargic surrender of his contemporaries. Dwight Eisenhower muttered, flattered, corrected his mistakes, and then still wasn’t sure where he was going. Lyndon Johnson’s heavy boots drew more yawns than cheers. Adlai Stevenson came across as a stereotypical professor lecturing in a sleep-inducing monotone. Hubert Humphrey could take an hour to say what he could cover in five minutes.

In contrast, Kennedy embodied the “vigah” (his family’s way of saying “strength”) that he envisioned for the nation. His gestures were impressive and powerful. His commanding voice reflected his complete commitment to his subject. His sober posture (which, as we now know, belied his physical pain) portrayed a high degree of confidence. His spontaneous interaction with the audience, especially during press conferences, dispelled any suspicions that his presentations were canned. Even his approach to the pulpit showed his eagerness to begin his message.

Roger Ailes, who once coached Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, advised:

“Instead of trying to remember several speech variables, such as loudness, speed, voice and gestures, remember ‘energy’ and all the variables will take care of themselves.”

President John F. Kennedy remains one of history’s shining examples of how an extraordinarily high-energy speaker can inform, motivate, entertain, and persuade an audience at a level that generations will remember and applaud.

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