Word Challenge: Two Words, One Speech, JFK’s

Two new words and another great speech shared by our wordsmith Akil Bello, co-founder of Bell Curves. A new set of intriguing and applicable words from a concise and effective historical oratory delivered by another great communicator at a daunting time in our history…read on, put them to use, and don’t forget to share them with a student! 

One of the most beloved presidents in American history (as you can tell by the number of buildings, bridges, and NY fried chicken places named after him), John F. Kennedy was a powerful speaker, and often employed strong language to showcase his authority.  In his inaugural address given in 1961, JFK uses an impressive array of common and uncommonly used words to not only describe America but to also underscore some of the bigger challenges the country had to face.

Excerpt from the JFK inaugural address: And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor — not a new balance of power, but a new world of law — where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved. Though it was extraordinarily difficult to select a mere 2 words from this speech, I’ve settled on beachhead and endeavor as this weeks words of note mostly because of the impressive turn of phrase in which they are found. I also selected this sentence because the word beachhead, like quite a few other seemingly simple compound words (dovetail, foolhardy, and bushwhack), means something more than the simple sum of its parts. Beachhead is a deceptively simple word that seems familiar but can very easily be obscure (unless you like war movies or video games).

Beachhead: 1. A position on an enemy shoreline captured by troops in advance of an invading force. 2. A first achievement that opens the way for further developments

As is often the case with the great orators and writers, they use a word not in its common sense but instead use the more rare or obscure and often more figurative meaning. In this case beachhead is used to mean a beginning, a starting point, foothold on greater things to come.

Endeavor: An attempt to achieve a goal.

Endeavor makes my list simply because of its utility (usefulness) and accuracy in describing an effort to achieve something.

As with last week’s words, this week’s words might easily be found on standardized exams such as the ISEE, SSAT, SAT, or GRE:

The agreement by the NBA and the players to set a minimum age to play in the league was not the end of the negotiations but represented —— upon which the negotiators could build.

(A) an earmark (B) a bandicoot (C) a beachhead (D) a gangway (E) an eyesore

Endeavor is to goal as

(A) mountain is to apex (B) grasp is to object (C) lottery is to riches (D) race is to ribbon (E) invective is to house

Read JFK’s entire inaugural address to find other words of note including: symbolize, signify, solemn, prescribed, tempered, asunder, subversion, sovereign, invective, writ, adversary, engulf, tribulation, embattled, tyranny, belabor, eradicate, and civility.

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