A stirring reinterpretation of JFK’s Inaugural Address

This video, produced by the Harvard Kennedy School, commemorates the presidency of John F. Kennedy and recreates his inaugural address with many familiar faces and voices.



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  1. I remember being very moved as I watched Kennedy deliver this speech on TV at a local parochial school. It is almost Lincolnian in its eloquence.

    But I know now that eloquence is no guarantee of truthfulness. Yes, JFK and his brother sure had me fooled for the longest time.

    Operation MONGOOSE, which so far wins the prize as the world’s leading single international terrorist operation, started by the Kennedy administration right after the Bay of Pigs, that was secret. […] Right after the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt failed, Kennedy launched a major terrorist operation against Cuba [beginning November 30, 1961].

    It was huge-I think it had a $50 million-a-year budget (that’s known); it had about twenty-five hundred employees, about five hundred of them American, about two thousand what they call “assets,” you know, Cuban exiles or one thing or another.

    It was launched from Florida-and it was totally illegal. I mean, international law we can’t even talk about, but even by domestic law it was illegal, because it was a C.I.A. operation taking place on American territory, which is illegal.

    And it was serious: it involved blowing up hotels, sinking fishing boats, blowing up industrial installations, bombing airplanes. This was a very serious terrorist operation. The part of it that became well known was the assassination attempts-there were eight known assassination attempts on Castro.

    A lot of this stuff came out in the Senate Church Committee hearings in 1975, and other parts were uncovered through some good investigative reporting. It may still be going on today (we usually find out about these things a few years later), but it certainly went on through the 1970s.

    Actually, let me just tell you one piece of it that was revealed about a year ago. It turns out that Operation MONGOOSE practically blew up the world.

    I don’t know how many of you have been following the new material that’s been released on the Cuban Missile Crisis [1962 U.S.-Soviet showdown over Soviet missiles in Cuba], but it’s very interesting. There have been meetings with the Russians, now there are some with the Cubans, and a lot of material has come out under the Freedom of Information Act here. And there’s a very different picture of the Cuban Missile Crisis emerging.

    One thing that’s been discovered is that the Russians and the Cubans had separate agendas during the course of the Crisis. See, the standard view is that the Cubans were just Russian puppets. Well, that’s not true, nothing like that is ever true-it may be convenient to believe, but it’s never true. And in fact, the Cubans had their own concerns: they were worried about an American invasion.

    And now it turns out that those concerns were very valid-the United States had invasion plans for October 1962; the Missile Crisis was in October 1962. In fact, American naval and military units were already being deployed for an invasion before the beginning of the Missile Crisis; that’s just been revealed in Freedom of Information Act materials.

    Of course, it’s always been denied here, like if you read McGeorge Bundy’s book on the military system, he denies it, but it’s true, and now the documents are around to prove it. And the Cubans doubtless knew it, so that was probably what was motivating them. The Russians, on the other hand, were worried about the enormous missile gap-which was in fact in the U.S.’s favor, not in their favor as Kennedy claimed.

    So what happened is, there was that famous interchange between Kennedy and Khrushchev, in which an agreement to end the crisis was reached. Then shortly after that, the Russians tried to take control of their missiles in Cuba, in order to carry through the deal they had made with the United States. See, at that point the Russians didn’t actually control the missiles, the missiles were in the hands of Cubans-and the Cubans didn’t want to give them up, because they were still worried, plausibly, that there would be an American invasion.

    So there was a stand-off between them early in November-which even included an actual confrontation between Russian and Cuban forces about who was going to have physical control of the missiles. It was a very tense moment, and you didn’t know what was going to happen.

    Then right in the middle of it, one of the Operation MONGOOSE activities took place. Right at one of the tensest moments of the Missile Crisis, the C.I.A. blew up a factory in Cuba, with about four hundred people killed according to the Cubans.

    Well, fortunately the Cubans didn’t react–but if something like that had happened to us at the time, Kennedy certainly would have reacted, and we would have had a nuclear war. It came very close.

    — Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002 (pp. 7-9)

    To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
    ~ Bertrand Russell, Power: A New Social Analysis (1938), [Ch. 18: The Taming of Power]

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