John F. Kennedy's Address to the American People on the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

On October 22, 1962 President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised address to the American public regarding the former Soviet Union’s military presence in Cuba. Kennedy reports the presence offensive missile sites presumably intended to launch a nuclear attack against Western nations. The President characterizes this as move on the part of the U.S.S.R. as an imminent threat to American security and lays out his proposed course of action.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. urgent
    compelling immediate action
    This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this Nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13.
  2. ballistic
    of the motion of objects moving under their own momentum
    Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles.
  3. surveillance
    close observation of a person or group
    This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet Military buildup on the island of Cuba.
  4. quarantine
    isolation to prevent the spread of infectious disease
    To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated.
  5. impose
    charge and collect payment
    Our own strategic missiles have never been transferred to the territory of any other nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War II demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any other nation or impose our system upon its people.
  6. clandestine
    conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
    ... this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country...
  7. status quo
    the existing state of affairs
    For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge.
  8. provocative
    serving or tending to excite or stimulate
    ... this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil -- is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country... if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.
  9. substantially
    to a great extent or degree
    Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.
  10. undermine
    weaken or impair, especially gradually
    These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being. They can only undermine it.
  11. flagrant
    conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
    This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base -- by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction -- constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947...
  12. strenuous
    taxing to the utmost; testing powers of endurance
    We have in the past made strenuous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
  13. divert
    send on a course different from the planned or intended one
    We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.
  14. hostile
    characterized by enmity or ill will
    Any hostile move anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we are committed -- including in particular the brave people of West Berlin -- will be met by whatever action is needed.
  15. irritant
    something that causes discomfort and annoyance
    We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.
  16. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit
    He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction by returning to his government's own words that it had no need to station missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing these weapons from Cuba -- by refraining from any action which will widen or deepen the present crisis -- and then by participating in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions.
  17. unjustified
    lacking authorization
    This... is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.
  18. deploy
    place troops or weapons in battle formation
    For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care...
  19. precarious
    fraught with danger
    For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge.
  20. vindication
    the justification for some act or belief
    Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right -- not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world.
  21. eventuality
    a possible event or occurrence or result
    I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the hazards to all concerned in continuing this threat will be recognized.
  22. denunciation
    a public act of denouncing
    Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead -- months in which our patience and our will will be tested -- months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers.
  23. convoke
    call together
    Under the Charter of the United Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting of the Security Council be convoked without delay to take action against this latest Soviet threat to world peace.
  24. unswerving
    firm and dependable, especially in loyalty
    Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.
  25. elimination
    the act of removing or getting rid of something
    Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.

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