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Anniversaries of JFK’s 1963 Commencement Speech, Cuban Missile Crisis Approach

JFK

“I have [therefore] chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived—yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.” These were the words of President John F. Kennedy on the occasion of American University’s commencement exercises in June of 1963. The nation’s Commander in Chief visited campus to congratulate AU’s graduates, to encourage them to serve as agents of peace, and to announce that the United States would stop testing nuclear weapons and work for a comprehensive ban treaty.

During this speech, one of Kennedy’s most famous, the president also announced that the Soviets had expressed a desire to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty and that the U.S. had postponed planned atmospheric tests. Just months earlier, in October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis, a 13-day confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union and Cuba, had brought the world closer to nuclear war than any in our history. 

Were you here that day? Did you hear President Kennedy’s speech? Were you on campus during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Were you struck by what followed? If so, we want to hear from you! As we prepare to commemorate both the anniversary of JFK’s speech at AU and the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, AU wants to hear from those of you who were on campus during these historic times.

Please contact us to participate in stories for AU and to volunteer to be in touch with reporters and other individuals who are documenting the history around these events.