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Adlai E. Stevenson and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Stephenson played a key role in one of the most memorable moments of the crisis. He asked Soviet ambassador Zorin about the missiles on the Caribbean island.

"Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Don't wait for the translation! Yes or no?"

"I am not in an American courtroom, sir," Zorin responded, "and I do not wish to answer a question put to me in the manner in which a prosecutor does--"

"You are in the courtroom of world opinion right now," Stevenson interrupted, "and you can answer yes or no. You have denied that they exist, and I want to know whether I have understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room."

Zorin did not answer, and so Stevenson proceeded to show the reconnaissance photographs of the Soviet missiles to a stunned audience.


Stevenson Quotes

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to him, "You have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson called back, "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular."

"In America, anyone can become president. That's one of the risks you take."

"It is often easier to fight for one's principles that to live up to them."

"America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact--the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality."

"Flattery is all right--if you don't inhale."


American Diplomacy

Providing for the common defense requires that our government maintains peaceful relationships with other nations of the world. Diplomacy is the tool for gathering benefits for the nation without war and for securing the benefits won by war.

The isolated geographical location of the United States and the country's preoccupation with settling the vast land areas at home resulted in a nation more absorbed in domestic than foreign affairs. This accounts for the slow development of a professional diplomatic service. For years we have relied on a small corps of professional diplomats to implement foreign policies determined by the government and to initiate the negotiations that permit the President to exercise his constitutional power to make treaties.

The emergence of the United States as a world power in the 20th century has made the diplomat's role crucial in establishing successful relationships with other nations of the world. Traditional diplomatic duties have expanded with the nation's involvement in educational and cultural exchanges with other countries and in assistance to underdeveloped nations in the form of money, technical advice, and civilian as well as military aid.

From "We the People: The American People and Their Government" (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975) 124.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Thirty-fourth President, 1953-1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower's success in the European Theater of Operations during World War II led to his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe--the organizer of the D-Day invasion of Normandy that helped bring about Germany's surrender. When the genial war hero ran for president on a promise to end the Korean War, the voting public made it clear that they did, in fact, like Ike. The eight years Eisenhower spent in office were for the most part calm, prosperous years for the country, with the healthiest economy since the 1920s. But there were volatile issues for the president to deal with, as well. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, was so intent on ferreting out supposed communists within the State Department that he ruined the careers of many innocent people. The president also had to handle intensifying civil rights issues, such as the South's defiant reaction to the Supreme Court-ordered desegregation of schools, causing him to send federal troops to escort the African American students to school. The space race began on Eisenhower's watch when the Soviet Union beat America into space with Sputnik I, the first satellite into space. In order to bring the American space program up to speed, the president approved a new congressional program to bring talented young scientists into the field of space technology.


"Adlai E. Stevenson," From The White House or Bust

"Adlai E. Stevenson" from the recording entitled The White House or Bust, Folkways FH 5503, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1964. Used by permission.

Partial Transcript:
"I hear it said now and then that I am talking over the heads of the people. (crowd: "No") Well if it’s a mistake to appeal to intelligence and reason instead of emotion and prejudice then I plea guilty to the charge."


Related Images

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)
Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)

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