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Bret Gashler

Professor Strickland

English 1010

20 March, 2017

Rhetorical Analysis: President Kennedys Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation

In October of 1962 the world was confronted by the possibility of another world war.

Russia had been in the process of shipping and building medium to long range nuclear missiles

in Cuba to potentially attack the United States. Over the course of 13 days President Kennedy

and the U.S. government successfully negotiated with Russia to remove these missile bases and

ease some of the tensions between the U.S. and Russia. The resolution of the missile crisis in

Cuba came in large part by the speech given by President John F. Kennedy on the 22nd of October

1962. In his address, now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation, President

Kennedy effectively used the rhetorical techniques of pathos, ethos and logos as he spoke to the

people of the United States, the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and the people

of Cuba. His address outlined the threat that Russia was placing on surrounding countries with

the creation of nuclear missile bases in Cuba, his concern for the safety of the people, and how

he intended to resolve the conflict.

John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29th, 1917. His parents

and grandparents were prestigious and wealthy individuals who spent much of their lives

working in politics. This family background helped set the groundwork for JFK going into
politics himself later in life. Before becoming a politician, John F. Kennedy attended both

Princeton and Harvard University graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in government. During

his time in school he traveled extensively through Europe and South America, which included

time with his father serving as a U.S. ambassador for President Roosevelt. In 1941, he joined the

U.S. Navy Reserve where he was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps

Medal for saving two groups of marines on separate occasions. In 1946, JFK finally burst on the

political scene, becoming congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. After six years as

congressmen he won a seat on the Senate in 1953. Seven years later he ran for President of the

United States and became President in 1961. Much of his life was surrounded by politics and

adversity, all of whichs contributed to making him a steadfast, firm, and confident leader.

In the Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation, President Kennedy begins his

speech with several appeals to pathos, convincing the American people of the potential threat

these missiles presented in such close proximity. He starts his address by affirming that

American spy plane reconnaissance had discovered that a series of offensive missile sites

was being formed in Cuba. He continued, the purpose of these bases can be none other than

to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere. He then outlined that the

island of Cuba had been outfitted with medium to long range missile installations, capable of

striking almost anywhere across the continental United States.

His writing clearly intends to alarm and elicit urgency and fear in his listeners, as he

continues to refer to these new discoveries in Cuba as an explicit threat to the peace and

security of all the Americas. President Kennedy then draws parallels from the unpleasant

memories of the last century that had seen two world wars to further remind all those within the
sound of his voice of the possible threat posed by Russia and Cubas recent actions. He states,

the 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and

unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. In addition to the unpleasant reminders of lessons from

history, the president continues to use words and phrases like maximum peril, destructive,

threat to peace, and clear and present danger to persuade his listeners across the world that

these actions were unfavorable. At one point in his address he says, finally, I want to say a few

words to the captive people of Cuba... I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep

attachment to your fatherland These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute

nothing to your peace and well-being. The president makes it clear that his concern is not only

for the safety of the U.S., but for the entire world.

After convincing Americans and the world of the existing threat, President Kennedy then

moves on to ethos and logos, as he appeals to the public through his confident plan to counter

Russias aggressive moves. The presidents words indicate his knowledge of and power over the

American armed forces as he outlines his seven step proposal to increase military presence in

Cuba and further thwart Russia in their course of world domination. He begins by justifying

his rightful actions as the Commander in Chief, stating he is acting in the defense of our own

security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the

Constitution as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress. He continues to appeal to the

trust of the general public as he outlines his solutions and approach. The president uses clear and

logical statements to explain his intentions: I have directed the continued and increased close

surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup Should these offensive military preparations

continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. His
careful and logical approach instills confidence in his leadership and reassures the public of his

knowledge and ability to handle the evolving military situation in Cuba.

President Kennedy in fact makes good use of both logos throughout his entire address in

simply stating the facts of the situation at hand. His speech is precise and informative making a

complicated political and military situation as clear as possible. He outlines the danger that the

missiles present and states that they have the capability of striking most of the major cities in

the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima,

Peru. The president convinces listeners of the legitimacy of the threat through his extensive

knowledge, but also asserts his plans to contain the crisis with authority and confidence. He

assures the nation, 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 of continuing this threat will be recognized. President Kennedy is transparent in

his plans, and has both the authority and experience to legitimize himself.

Throughout the moving speech, President Kennedy uses rhetorical techniques to argue

the danger placed upon the world by Russias aggressive actions, but also maintain a trusting

relationship with his country and their allies. President Kennedy is firm and undaunted in his

statements. His qualifications as President of the United States and bold words help convince

listeners that Russias actions do indeed place a threat to national security. His language

throughout his address is direct and clear, adding to his credibility and logical appeal. His early

life helped to mold him into a president that was bold enough to confront the arduous task of

negotiating with Chairman Khrushchev. The powerful address given by President Kennedy
helped to sway the opinion of Fidel Castro in Cuba to stand up against Russia and helped to

solidify his legacy in history as one of the greats in speech writing.

Works Cited

Eidenmuller, Michael E. "American Rhetoric: John F. Kennedy - Cuban Missile Crisis Address

to the Nation." American Rhetoric: John F. Kennedy - Cuban Missile Crisis Address to

the Nation. N.p., 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.