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Prior Experience

The world knew of the rise of nuclear capabilities, and many people had begun training for nuclear war. Bomb shelters existed and civil defense personnel routinely held drills to encourage practicing for such a war. The general public; however, was unaware of the potential danger the U.S. faced from the Soviet Union. Again, there was a large ocean between the U.S. and any other nation that could be aggressive against the U.S.

People, also, knew of the failed attempts to unite Cuba with democracy. However, it was a small island and few feared it on its own. However, as the Soviet Union began placing strategic missiles in Cuba, the risk of a nuclear threat grew exponentially. Missiles would be less than 100 miles from U.S. mainland and capable of reaching well into the country. So, the message that would be new to the public would be of that proximity of threat. Kennedy makes that statement very early in the message:

Within the past week, 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.

Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 A.M., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

Kennedy goes on to make a case that the Soviet Union has lied and is taking an offensive positioning with these missiles:

This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles. on the territory of any other nation.

The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months. Yet, only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet Government publicly stated on September 11 that, and I quote, “the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive purposes,” that there is, and I quote the Soviet Government, “there is no need for the Soviet Government to shift its weapons for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba,” and that, and I quote their government, “the Soviet Union has so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union.”

That statement was false.

There is persuasive rhetoric in this statement, because he must convince the public that the Soviet Union is the aggressor and has lied, thereby positioning the U.S. and its new policy in the right. That understanding will help unite the citizens.

Kennedy also alludes to lessons learned from the preface of World War II and how the U.S. has tried to exercise restraint.

The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. 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.

Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful nation which leads a worldwide alliance.

As indicated above, he also speaks directly to the people of Cuba in an effort to galvanize them with regard to the U.S.’ righteousness.

Finally, I want to say a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all. And I have watched and the American people have watched with deep sorrow how your nationalist revolution was betrayed—and how your fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against your friends and neighbors in the Americas, and turned it into the first Latin American country to become a target for nuclear war—the first Latin American country to have these weapons on its soil.

These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being. They can only undermine it. But this country has no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system upon you. We know that your lives and land are being used as pawns by those who deny your freedom. Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans today look forward to the time when they will be truly free—free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the associations of this hemisphere.

He ends with the reassurance of U.S.’ righteousness:

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. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

Given the audiences’ memories, stored in their hippocampus, of what happened in the years before World War II and a similar occurrence appearing to happen in this situation, as presented by Kennedy, the audience would perceive a threat from the Soviet Union. This would provoke fear, related to the amygdala and the need for action to address the threat.

Intermodal Sensory Redundancy and Temporal Synchronicity

Intermodal redundancy and Temporal synchronicity may be considered together since television facilitates visual and audio. The audience can see Kennedy’s expression of authoritativeness and frustration with the Soviet Union as he reads his prepared speech. The two—facial expression and words-occur together.


This speech, addressed to both U.S. and Cuban citizens, appeals to mirror neurons in much the same way that F.D.R.’s speech did. The audience values the president’s position and wants to support the policy because it pertains to national security and a real threat to it. The audience has the same values as the president represents in the message. The reward (reward neurons), of course, to both audiences is the continued security of freedoms of democracy and life. Given the nuclear nature of the threat and an understanding of the effect of nuclear bombs based on the bombing of two Japanese cities to end World War II, each member of the audience is concerned about his or her life, not just national security. So, there is something in the message that appeals to every person in the audience on a personal level—their own life.

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