May 25, 2022 • 43M

JFK's Most Famous Sentence

John McWhorter analyzes the profoundly resonant "Ask not" line, word for word.

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John McWhorter
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On Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered — to an audience seated both outside at the U.S. Capitol and at home in front of their televisions — his inaugural address. Millions were stirred that afternoon by the rousing line: And so, my fellow Americans — ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Every part of that exhortation, as John McWhorter explains, is a fascinating linguistic lesson.