John F. Kennedy: Reading Comprehension for Advanced ESL

Kennedy Quote
Kennedy Speech Quote. Hisham Ibrahim / Getty Images

John F. Kennedy is considered one of the outstanding presidents in United States' history. He inspired hope in not only the citizens of the United States, but also in citizens of the world. Despite the many controversies surrounding President Kennedy, his message of hope and belief in the future remains inspiring as the world becomes a "Global Community". The following reading section contains highlights of the transcript of his Inaugural Address on that day of hope in January 1961.

John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address - 1961 - by John F. Kennedy

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now, for man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe. The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.

Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge and more.

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger; I do not shrink from this responsibility.I welcome it.

I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow American .ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the Freedom of Man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds; let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

Vocabulary Help


abolish  Verb: to eliminate
assure    Verb: to make sure of something
bear any burden    Verb phrase: to make any sacrifice
conscience    Noun: a person's feeling of right and wrong
dare    Verb: to try something difficult
deeds    Noun: actions
devotion    Noun: commitment to something
disciplined by a hard and bitter peace    Phrase: made strong by the cold war
endeavor    Noun: attempt to do something
exchange places    Verb phrase: to trade positions with someone
faith    Noun: belief in something, often religion
fellow citizens    phrase: people from the same country
foe    Noun: enemy
forbears    Noun: ancestors
glow    Noun: shine of light
go forth    Verb phrase: to enter the world
granted    Verb: given the opportunity
heirs    Noun: people who inherit something
observe    Verb: to watch
oppose any foe    Verb phrase: confront any enemy
pledge    Verb: to promise
proud of our ancient heritage    Phrase: proud of our past
sacrifice    Verb: to give up something
solemn oath    Phrase: serious promise
sworn    Verb: promised
tempered by war    Verb phrase: made strong by war
torch has been passed  Idiom: responsibilities given to the younger generation
undoing    Noun: destruction of something made
wishes us well or ill    Verb phrase: wants good or bad for us

Speech Comprehension Quiz

1. President Kennedy said the people were celebrating...
a) a party b) freedom c) the victory of the democratic party

2. President Kennedy has promised God and

a) Congress b) the American people c) Jacqueline

3. How is the world different today (in 1961)?
a) We can destroy each other. b) We can travel quickly. c) We can get rid of hunger.

4. Who supplies the rights of man?
a) the State b) God c) Man

5. What should Americans not forget?
a) to vote for Kennedy b) to pay taxes c) what their ancestors created

6.Friends and foes should know:
a) that the United States is powerful b) that a new generation of Americans are responsible for their government c) that the United States is governed by liberals

7. What is Kennedy's promise to the world?
a) to support liberty b) to provide money to developing countries c) to visit each country at least once

8. What do you think that the "maximum danger" is in Kennedy's opinion? (remember it is 1961)
a) China b) Restricted Trade c) Communism

9. What should Americans ask of America?
a) how much their taxes will be b) what they can do for The United States c) what the government will do for them

10. What should citizens of the world ask of America?
a) how America can help them b) if America plans to invade their country c) what they can do for freedom

11. What should citizens of the USA and other nations require of The United States?
a) that the USA is as honest and sacrifices as much as they do b) more money for support programs c) less interference with their own political systems

12. Who is responsible for what happens on the planet Earth?
a) God b) Destiny c) Man

Comprehension Quiz Answers

  1. b) freedom
  2. b) the American people
  3. c) We can destroy each other.
  4. b) God
  5. c) what their ancestors created
  6. b) that a new generation of Americans are responsible for their government.
  7. a) to support liberty
  8. c) Communism
  9. b) what they can do for The United States
  10. c) what they can do for freedom
  11. a) that the USA is as honest and sacrifices as much as they do
  12. c) Man
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "John F. Kennedy: Reading Comprehension for Advanced ESL." ThoughtCo, Mar. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/john-f-kennedy-reading-comprehension-4002576. Beare, Kenneth. (2016, March 22). John F. Kennedy: Reading Comprehension for Advanced ESL. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/john-f-kennedy-reading-comprehension-4002576 Beare, Kenneth. "John F. Kennedy: Reading Comprehension for Advanced ESL." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/john-f-kennedy-reading-comprehension-4002576 (accessed December 12, 2017).