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As you learned, people often have very different perspectives on the same events. As a historian, you must recognize this fact and consider how it may impact the writing of an author. To read like a historian, you must consider the historical context, the author’s perspective or point of view, the purpose of the text and the audience of the text.

In this activity, compare two more letters exchanged between President John F. Kennedy and Chairman Nikita Khrushchev during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As you read the two letters, compare their points of view and the details they include to emphasize their points.

image of letter written by Soviet leader, Chairman Khrushchev

When reading historical documents, it’s important to consider the author and historical context. 

Image Credit: JFK Presidential Library and Museumopens in new window

Read a letter written by Chairman Nikita Khrushchev to President John F. Kennedy. As you read, consider President Kennedy’s point of view.

Day 8, Cuban Missile Crisis

Mr. President.

I have just received your letter, and have also acquainted myself with the text of your speech of October 22 regarding Cuba. I must say frankly that measures indicated in your statement constitute a serious threat to peace and to the security of nations. The United States has openly taken the path of grossly violating the United Nations Charter, path of violating international norms of freedom of navigation on the high seas, the path of aggressive actions both against Cuba and against the Soviet Union.

The statement by the Government of the United States of America can only be regarded as undisguised interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other states. The United Nations Charter and international norms give no right to any state to institute in international waters the inspection of vessels bound for the shores of the Republic of Cuba.

And naturally, neither can we recognize the right of the United States to establish control over armaments which are necessary for the Republic of Cuba to strengthen of its defense capability.
We affirm that the armaments which are in Cuba, regardless of the classification to which they may belong, are intended solely for defensive purposes, in order to secure the Republic of Cuba against the attack of an aggressor.

I hope that the United States Government will display wisdom and renounce the actions pursued by you, which may lead to catastrophic consequences for world peace…

- N. Khrushchev, Moscow, October 23, 1962
Source:  JFK Presidential Library and Museum opens in new window"

Read a letter written by President John F. Kennedy to Chairman Nikita Khrushchev. As you read, consider Chairman Khrushchev’s point of view.

Day 10, Cuban Missile Crisis

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have received your letter of October 24, and I regret very much that you still do not appear to understand what it is that has moved us in this matter.

The sequence of events is clear. In August, there were reports of important shipments of military equipment and technicians from the Soviet Union to Cuba. In early September, I indicated very plainly that the United States would regard any shipment of offensive weapons as presenting the gravest issues. After that time, this Government received the most explicit assurances from your Government and its representatives, both publicly and privately, that no offensive weapons were being sent to Cuba. If you will review the statement issued by Tass [official Soviet news agency] in September, you will see how clearly this assurance was given.

In reliance on these solemn assurances, I urged restraint upon those in this country who were urging action in this matter at that time. And then I learned beyond doubt what you have not denied -- namely, that all these public assurances were false and that your military people had set out recently to establish a set of missile bases in Cuba. I ask you to recognize clearly, Mr. Chairman, that it was not I who issued the first challenge in this case, and that in the light of this record these activities in Cuba required the responses I have announced.

I repeat my regret that these events should cause a deterioration in our relations. I hope that your Government will take the necessary action to permit a restoration of the earlier situation.

Sincerely yours,
- President John F. Kennedy, October 25, 1962

- N. Khrushchev, Moscow, October 23, 1962
Source:  JFK Presidential Library and Museum opens in new window"

After reading both letters, complete the drag-and-drop activity below by matching the statement with the author's point of view, or complete the alternative multiple choice activity. (This alternative activity is provided for students using keyboard only or screen readers.)