Political speeches can be perceived as an instrument intended to help a public figure to translate their thoughts and aspirations to a form that could link communities together. Politicians and their audience would then pursue a common cause and follow the language and symbols displayed by the given leader to maintain unity and remain a powerful mass. Political speeches are of crucial importance to public figures because they entangle social, political, and economic factors that are later put into practice in an attempt to influence the public (Abulof, 2020).
The key objective of political discourse is to persuade the audience and strengthen the speaker’s image with the help of intonation, ideas, or any other viable communication instrument. Political speeches may be affected by one’s ideology and worldviews, helping them to establish a stronger connection with the intended community (Avetisyan, 2015). The current paper is going to present a thorough analysis of three political speeches held by John F. Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan, respectively.
Ich Bin Ein Berliner
The power of Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin that he delivered in 1963 signified the crucial geopolitical conflict between two parts of Germany and numerous geopolitical issues surrounding the Berlin Wall itself. The 35th President of the United States became the face of democracy at that point while also arguably reaching the prime of his abilities as the head of the US. With West Germany being a democratic division and East Germany turning into its communist counterpart, there was no doubt that most Western leaders, including Kennedy, would appeal to West Germany (Parcell, 2016).
Over time, Kennedy’s message in West Berlin gained even more power, as the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, showed readiness to enter any future European conflict to keep East and West Berlin separated. The Western courage was somewhat tested by the Soviet Union, causing Kennedy to respond to Khrushchev with a military buildup and a follow-up speech that is currently titled Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Burns, 2016). Despite the tense relationships between the two countries, Kennedy’s message to West Berlin was not a threat note to the USSR.
The speech delivered by the President of the United States became an epitome to the people who tried to find their freedom while crossing borders and running away from the regime they despised. The Berlin Wall became the symbol of oppression that Kennedy became able to use as an instrument to ease the tension between communities and set the stage for a moral choice that thousands of locals would have to make sooner or later (Blankenship, 2016).
From the point of aesthetics, Kennedy’s speech was practically flawless because he was naturally overwhelmed by what he saw when he arrived at West Berlin. Instead of approaching the issue strategically, Kennedy tried to remain close to improvisation and built up his own tactic to address the local population. This emotional capability was the one element that each of the previous drafts lacked. Kennedy managed to play his part perfectly when he said that West Berlin had to prepare for tough times in order to persevere (Kudlow & Domitrovic, 2016). Arguably, there were no weak spots in that particular President’s speech.
When Kennedy delivered his speech, he chose to stay away from the draft that he was given before his announcement. The message was developed by the President to reflect the values of solidarity and freedom while also ensuring that the impossibility to find a balance between the US and the USSR would also be highlighted (Burns, 2016). Kennedy had no intention to offend the Soviet Union, as his only aspiration was to motivate people in West Berlin to believe that the state of affairs would improve shortly. The grand claim regarding Kennedy being a Berliner has had the effect the President wanted to achieve, giving him an upper hand in terms of further negotiations and international partnerships (Blankenship, 2016). These iconic closing words validated the democratic nature of Kennedy’s claims and helped him to achieve the support of the local community without any particular efforts or monetary investments.
Make the World Safe for Democracy
There is a particular idea that separates the message delivered by Woodrow Wilson from the other two reviewed within the framework of this paper. It is the providential destiny arguably held by the Americans who seem to be an example of democracy to other countries across the globe that are struggling with their regimes (Smith, 2017). While Wilson does not state it directly, his intentions are to support the principle of remaining the guiding light for others. The main focus was placed by the 28th President of the United States on the improbability of forcing American values upon neighboring or overseas countries. The best ideas mentioned by Wilson revolved around the opportunities linked to challenging American foreign policies and creating a new standard for independence and freedom (Snyder, 2015). Therefore, the President tried to appeal to the intended audience by stating that the US should remain the champion of its own and not get involved in any battles for democracy.
This statement did not live up to the expectations because Wilson’s message contained hints at expansionism and the willingness to reverse the existing principles in order to instill a different foundation for upcoming generations. The course of American diplomacy shows that progressive democracy promoted by many political leaders from the US was somewhat of a disguise intended to help the country embrace a different approach to international relationships (Ambrosius, 2017). World peace was not included in Wilson’s message, as he mainly focused on national interests and overlooked the previous values entrenched in US history.
In his speech, the President motivated the need to spread democracy by stating that other countries did not have enough will and resources to engage in self-government (Snyder, 2015). Ultimately, this particular belief has led the US to become a neutral player in the international arena, eventually withdrawing from World War I and ignoring the sentiments displayed by first-generation European immigrants. It was due to Wilson’s claims and beliefs that the US tried to recover its ineffectualness with the help of loans and arms in order to validate neutrality.
Overall, Wilson’s Make the World Safe for Democracy is a perfect example of how the lack of progressive democracy could negatively affect the country staying behind the majority of activities intended to popularize the notion of democracy itself. The protests and foreign policy issues that followed Wilson’s presidency turned out to be the outcomes of his foul wording and the inability to perceive democracy as a dynamic state that should be maintained peacefully (Smith, 2017).
While the 28th President of the United States was an efficient speaker, his claims did not live up to the expectations because Wilson’s administration did not build up its claims on freedoms and motivational factors. The ultimate peace of the world was just another slice of the American dream that was promoted by Wilson with no real claims backing up the role and the contribution of the US troops (Snyder, 2015). Therefore, democracy was a superficial point in the President’s speech that was used to cover the inherent willingness to strengthen the country’s international position.
Tear Down This Wall
One of the most important messages shared by Reagan in his Tear Down This Wall speech was a thorough focus on the American approach to freedom and people’s willingness to achieve the highest level of prosperity possible. There is an evident hint at the connection between well-being and freedom in his words that can be instantly felt through Reagan’s intonation and the tone of his voice (Judge, 2015). There is only one universal truth for the people of America that the President is trying to share with West Germany, which is the causal connection where freedom causes prosperity and not vice versa.
Not only Reagan addresses the need to overcome the past hatred, but he also advocates for global peace and understanding. The President tends to appeal to the audience’s feeling of freedom several times throughout the speech in order for him to prove that US intentions are positive (Ryan, 2016). Knowing that freedom is one of the keywords stemming from American history itself, there shall be no doubts about why Reagan’s message resonated with the public at the time.
Some of the words that can also be identified in the President’s message are prosperity, victory, and well-being. As Mor Barak (2019) explained, all of these represented an announcement of strong democratic principles that could become available to any other country partnering with the US and focusing on positive relations with neighboring countries. Even though Reagan does not really use any of the Eastern countries as a positive example, which is a direct hint at the tough relationship with the USSR, there are no words that might discredit their role in global relationships or damage another country leader’s reputation (Ryan, 2016).
Therefore, the role of America, in Reagan’s speech, is to bring technological progress and improving standards of health to Europe and protect the world from the deteriorative Communist worldviews. Evidently, Reagan is capitalizing on the point that relationships with the United States cannot be a failure, as his nation has all the resources to make the world a better place to live. This speech is the epitome of the dualistic nature of the American dream and its significance for other countries around the globe.
Accordingly, there is a rather persistent tone in Reagan’s message that turns the Tear Down This Wall into an ode to the Western democratic regime. According to the President, the latter is not based on violence and the willingness to spoil one’s impulses to create and worship. Violence to the spirit is what the Western society is going to fight with all their heart, attempting to enjoy life and make sure that there are going to be no obstacles on the way to improved well-being (Judge, 2015).
Reagan’s message to West Berlin was a homage to both the US and Berlin relating to the West, where peace, freedom, and health were a common occurrence. As a motivational message, Tear Down This Wall became a figurative instrument in describing the East as an area affected by poverty and starvation (Mor Barak, 2019). Overall, this speech turned out to be an attempt of the US to picture two opposing worlds and create a message for West Berlin that would encourage locals to support America and disregard the remaining world.
To sum it up, each of the speeches mentioned above turned out to be an iconic example of how to communicate with the public and promote democratic values in an appropriate, appealing manner. Kennedy’s Ich Bin Ein Berliner was a strong message that resonated with thousands of people worldwide. His ideas represented the essential truth about democracy, and people believed him because he was in his prime and could not do anything wrong at that time. Kennedy’s references to human history built up a connection between Americans and Germans because both these groups mostly valued self-government and liberty.
Kennedy’s heartfelt messages about the invisible character of freedom touched upon the deepest corners of German souls and turned the 35th President of the United States into a fellow speaker. With his speech, Kennedy offered a much more positive outlook on Germany’s future and advocated for a peaceful relationship between people from all over the world. Kennedy’s final words allowed him to pay homage to German values and create a closer bond with local people.
Woodrow Wilson’s message from his Make the World Safe for Democracy, in turn, did not resonate very well with the intended audience while hinting at some of the most important democratic principles. One of the possible reasons for Wilson’s message not living up to the expectations might have been the Treaty of Versailles that enforced several limitations upon the American sovereignty. World peace was not an option for the great powers involved in the discussion, and national interests seemed to prevail, causing Wilson’s democratic entreaties to dissolve. Make the World Safe for Democracy included a powerful message that could not become a reality because of the incompatibility between progressive democracy and numerous other regimes, such as fascism, totalitarianism, and communism.
Even though Wilson’s speech was utterly criticized, its contribution to worldwide democracy became visible during the last two decades, with the United States trying to enforce its vision of democracy upon several other countries.
Ronald Reagan’s Tear Down This Wall is another iconic yet controversial political speech that became a symbol of democracy and hopeful thinking. In his announcements, the 40th President of the United States approached the importance of unity and liberty, stating that West German leaders might be on the same page with their American colleagues. From economy to society, Reagan addressed everything in a unique tone that allowed him to build a connection with the audience. The President mostly used “we” during the speech, showing his compassion toward West Germany and West Berlin. It may be safe to say that the ideology popularized by Reagan allowed his administration to change the world and turn it into a place where democracy was not just a word. As the President of the United States, Reagan always capitalized on the role of freedom and unity, motivating people to bond and serve a common cause.
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