JOHN F. KENNEDY, “ADDRESS: ‘THE PRESIDENT AND PRESS’” (27 APRIL 1961)
- Read “Address to Joint Session of Congress Following 9/11 Attacks” by President George W. Bush and search for examples of melodramatic framing. Can you find clear examples of “angels” and “devils” in the speech? How might the dualistic framing add to the emotional impact of the speech? Discuss whether or not the speech “fits” Windt’s description of presidential crisis rhetoric.
- Read “The Truman Doctrine” by President Harry S. Truman. A defining characteristic of Cold War rhetoric is a contrast between “communistic slavery” and “democratic freedom.” Explain how this contrast is made clear in Truman’s speech.
- Read newspaper reports about “The President and the Press” the day after it was delivered. Look especially in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe. What did journalists and media professionals say about the speech?
- Do you agree with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s claim that Kennedy “went much too far” when “he told the press that it should be prepared to censor itself in the interests of national security?” Was the use of presidential crisis rhetoric and/or Cold War rhetoric too heavy-handed for the rhetorical situation? If so, what may have been a better rhetorical approach?
- Why might President Kennedy have portrayed the situation as a crisis? Would subsequent events in the Cold War during Kennedy’s presidency suggest that he was right to worry about the collaborations between the USSR and Cuba?
- Often the three branches of government have to balance questions of national security with civil liberties? How would you characterize President Kennedy’s attempt to balance the two during the Bay of Pigs events?
- In “The President and the Press,” Kennedy explained that he had “no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news.” Write an exploratory report detailing the role of the Office of War Information during World War II.
- Write a report that investigates the controversy surrounding the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001. What were some of the objections to the law? Do you believe that the law threatens basic civil liberties? Or, do you think the national security concerns warranted its passage?
- Conduct research on the Sedition Act of 1918? What impact did it have on free speech at the time and in the years following its passage?
- There are five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. What are the five freedoms? Give examples of U.S. presidents attempting to abridge each of those freedoms. Next, compare these situations to Kennedy’s “The President and the Press” speech? Do you believe such actions were justified or unjustified? Please explain your answers.
- Walt Disney Productions made films for each branch of the U.S. military during World War II. Watch Der Fuehrer’s Face, a 1943 animated film produced by Disney starring Donald Duck. How does the film portray Hitler and the Nazis? Identify the characteristics that help to construct the Nazis as “devils.” Discuss how this partnership between Hollywood and the government might be problematic or productive.
- Host a viewing party for the documentary, “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” in your home with friends, at a local community facility, or on your college campus. Discuss the major arguments of the film and their implications on contemporary free speech rights.
- Find Internet sources, such as freedom of speech blogs, to see what some U.S. citizens are saying about issues of free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union hosts a free speech blog (http://www.aclu.org/blog/project/free-speech). Read about current freedom of speech issues on blogs like the ACLU’s and post your comments.
- Have you witnessed instances of restricted First Amendment rights on your campus or in your town? If so, write a letter to the editor of your school newspaper or your local paper articulating your position.
- Locate the websites of your senators and representatives in Congress. Find their email addresses and let them hear from you about your free speech concerns. How would you like them to vote on upcoming free speech measures? What free speech initiatives would you like them to advance? How can they continue to protect your First Amendment right to speak?
- Read some scholarly research on the use of fear appeals in public messages (for example, Curnalia’s study on the use of fear appeals in political advertisements). Can you find evidence of fear appeals being used in your local communities? If so, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or post a response on a local blog articulating your findings.
Last updated May 4, 2016