Figure One: “Johnson and Kennedy.” 1963. Photograph. The Third City. Web. 4 October 2010.
On November 27, 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered a speech regarding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. There are various conspiracy theories regarding his assassination, and despite numerous investigations, there has not been one general conclusion reached regarding the reason behind this shooting. Given only a few days after the assassination to prepare the speech, LBJ addresses JFK’s strong points and accomplishments and tells the public what his future plans are regarding the plans as imposed by Kennedy. LBJ emphasizes the importance of unity in such a tragedy and asks the American people to work as a whole to overcome it and thrive in spite of it. He reassures the public that although this is truly a tragic situation, America will make the best of it. As JFK’s vice president, LBJ takes charge in this time of crisis with a firm, but gentle hand. Johnson is sympathetic and mournful over the loss of the president but takes charge by using some of Kennedy’s plans as well as his own to positively direct America’s future. By using some of John F. Kennedy’s existing ideas Lyndon B. Johnson commanded the support of the American public in a professional and positive way.
LBJ unites all of America by expressing his sorrow at the tragedy; he uses vocabulary that ties him and the people together as one, as when he states, “We will be unceasing in the search for peace, resourceful in our pursuit of areas of agreement -- even with those with whom we differ -- and generous and loyal to those who join with us in common cause.” One instance in which LBJ plans to follow in JFK’s footsteps is with his policy in Vietnam. He plans to honor JFK’s memory by mirroring his goals with civil rights, claiming, “ It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law...to enact a civil rights law so that we can move forward to eliminate from this nation every trace of discrimination and oppression that is based upon race or color.” Another way in which LBJ plans to continue Kennedy’s legacy is to “continue...the early passage of the tax bill for which he fought all this long year...a bill designed to increase our national income and Federal revenues, and to provide insurance against recession.” Each of these measures commands the support of Kennedy’s existing followers as well as Johnson’s. In figure one, LBJ and JFK are captured in a pose that displays their different personalities. Though they have obvious differences, LBJ's speech shows his willingness to overcome those differences and his professionalism as the new president.
LBJ’s tone helps convey his sincerity and shows that he, too, is suffering a loss. He asks for support and connects with the public by asking for their involvement; “An assassin's bullet has thrust upon me the awesome burden of the Presidency. I am here today to say I need your help. I cannot bear this burden alone. I need the help of all Americans, and all America.” He effectively speaks and dedicates the speech to a varying audience, speaking to “the United Nations, to the honorable and determined execution of our commitments to our allies, to the maintenance of military strength second to none, to the defense of the strength and the stability of the dollar, to the expansion of our foreign trade, to the reinforcement of our programs of mutual assistance and cooperation in Asia and Africa, and to our Alliance for Progress in this hemisphere.”
Through LBJ’s strong rhetorical technique, he receives support from not only the American people, but from Congress as well. He speaks slowly and deliberately, stressing the misfortune of the situation. Bringing elements of Kennedy’s plans into his own presidency effectively gains him the support he needs to be a successful leader.
"American Rhetoric: Lyndon Baines Johnson - Let Us Continue (11-27-63)." American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. Web. 30 Sept. 2010.
Google News Timeline. Web. 30 Sept. 2010.
“LBJ to continue Kennedy policy in Vietnam.” 2010. The History Channel website. Oct 2 2010.
Walsh, Kenneth T. " The First 100 Days: Lyndon Johnson Fulfilled Kennedy's Legacy." Editorial. US News and World Report. N.p., 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2010.