Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation.

Author:Jones, David T.

Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation

By President John F. Kennedy

Reviewed by David T. Jones, co-author of Uneasy Neighbo(u)rs, a book on U.S.-Canada relations

Text, audio, and video:

Reviewing the dramatic speech given over 45 years ago by President Kennedy in response to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba still elicits a frisson of fright. Listening to the speech as a university undergraduate, it was clear that we had moved close--very close--to the edge of nuclear war. The much derided "brinksmanship" of Eisenhower's former Secretary of State Dulles was back--in spades.

So far as its substantive content was concerned, Kennedy laid out the presence of Soviet bombers, medium-range (1,000 mile) nuclear missiles, and their preparations for installation of intermediate-range (2,000 mile) ballistic missiles. The systems were capable of striking most urban centers in North and South America.

Kennedy recounted the lies Soviet leaders had told regarding the purported defensive nature of systems being installed. To each of the Soviet reassurances that Kennedy cited, he flatly noted "That statement was false."

Depicting the Soviet action as an existential challenge to U.S. national security, Kennedy demanded withdrawal of these systems. They were a "clear and present danger," an "explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas," and a "deliberately provocative and unjustified" action "which cannot be accepted ... if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again ..." Kennedy acknowledged the risk of nuclear war, but emphasized that we will "not shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced."

To assure that no further missiles arrived, he declared a "strict quarantine" of Cuba and directed that U.S. armed forces "prepare for any eventualities" as...

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