President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in January 1961 foreshadowed his Cuban Missile Crisis Speech of October 22, 1962. His steely, resolute admonition to the world in general and to Soviet Chairman Khrushchev in particular made it clear that the president would not and could not tolerate the provocative, extremely dangerous deployment of Soviet nuclear weapons in nearby Cuba. He realized that his paramount goal, for every day of his presidency, was to maintain the security of the United States, and by extension, the free world.
The Soviet’s deceitful and reckless acts and maneuvers in Cuba brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Our nation and the world can be proud and eternally grateful for Mr. Kennedy’s wise, firm, restrained and reasonable response to the Soviet’s belligerent affront. Strength, determination and a figurative steely stare were clearly and firmly conveyed to the Soviets in the missile crisis speech. This strength of character, embodied in Mr. Kennedy and within the venerable and brave history of the United States and its people, should have already been evident to all those who heard the new president’s inaugural address.
He trumpeted our unwavering commitment toward national security and freedom when he said, “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, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. ” The Soviet’s Cuban encroachment was a threat of the highest order to liberty and freedom. President Kennedy laid out a specific, simple, horrifying picture of the threat that faced the United States and the world when he starkly and frankly described the Soviet nuclear missile threat in the neighboring country of Cuba.
He stated that “unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere. ” Cuba embodied the pathos, or pitiful suffering aspect of this scenario because they were a helpless pawn in the hands of the bellicose Soviets. The United States’ ethos and logos were the stern, unwavering principles that guided the president to figuratively stare down the foolish, reckless Soviet aggressors.
Mr. Kennedy recalled the seeds of World War II as a precedent when he said, “The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. ” He was prepared to pay any price to unearth these seeds of potential global nuclear war. A catastrophic, potentially world-altering event was seemingly imminent as President Kennedy laid out a series of seven steps in an attempt to avert Armageddon. He spoke to the world and directly to Khrushchev with these firm, non-negotiable steps.
A strict embargo of all military shipments into Cuba was imposed and coupled with a dire, monumental warning to the Soviets: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba…as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union. ” With this warning, the United States unambiguously reserved the right to unilaterally defend itself from Soviet aggression with a massive nuclear retaliation.
Wisely, in addition to this stark warning, Mr. Kennedy proposed that the Soviets should reconsider the gravity of their provocative actions and withdraw their weapons from Cuba. Kennedy left the Soviets an honorable, face-saving out when he implored them to not “widen or deepen the present crisis” and to participate in “a search for peaceful and permanent solutions. ” Thankfully, the Soviets realized their potentially cataclysmic miscalculation and promptly backed down and withdrew their nuclear weapons from Cuba.
President Kennedy met his responsibility to protect the United States by handling this challenge deftly and superbly, and the American people and the world rightly applauded him. Foreshadowing of this monumental test was contained in Kennedy’s inaugural address, many months prior to the Cuban missile crisis: “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. ”