Kennedy Announces Blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis
October 22, 1962
In a dramatic televised address to the American public, President John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union has placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and, in response, the United States will establish a blockade around the island to prevent any other offensive weapons from entering Castro’s state. Kennedy also warned the Soviets that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be construed as an act of war, and that the United States would retaliate in kind.
Kennedy charged the Soviet Union with subterfuge and outright deception in what he referred to as a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.” He dismissed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko’s claim that the weapons in Cuba were of a purely defensive nature as “false.”
Harking back to efforts to contain German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, Kennedy argued that war-like behavior, “if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.
“The president outlined a plan of action that called for a naval blockade to enforce a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.” He also issued a warning to the Soviets that the United States would retaliate against them if there was a nuclear attack from Cuba, and placed the U.S. military in the Western Hemisphere on a heightened state of alert. Kennedy called upon the Organization of American States (an organization formed by the United States and Latin American nations in 1948 to help resolve hemispheric disputes) and the United Nations to help resolve the issue. Finally, he made a personal plea to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to cease his “reckless” course of action. Khrushchev, he stated, “has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction.” The world was now poised at the brink of a nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. In America, many citizens began building or replenishing bomb shelters, waiting anxiously to see what the Soviet response to Kennedy’s speech would be.
Sartre Wins and Declines Nobel Prize
October 22, 1964
On this day in 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, which he declines.
In his novels, essays, and plays, Sartre advanced the philosophy of existentialism, arguing that each individual must create meaning for his or her own life, because life itself had no innate meaning.
Sartre studied at the elite École Normale Supérieure between 1924 and 1929. He met Simone de Beauvoir, who became his lifelong companion, during this time. The pair spent countless hours in cafés, talking, writing, and drinking coffee. Sartre became a philosophy professor and taught in Le Havre, Laon, and Paris. In 1938, his first novel, Nausea, was published-the narrative took the form of a diary of a cafÉ-haunting intellectual. In 1939, he was drafted into World War II, taken prisoner, and held for about a year; he later fought with the French Resistance.
In 1943, he published one of his key works, Being and Nothingness, where he argued that man is condemned to freedom and has a social responsibility. Sartre and Beauvoir engaged in social movements, supporting communism and the radical student uprisings in Paris in 1968.
Also in 1943, he wrote one of his best-known plays, The Flies, followed by Huis Clos (No Exit) in 1945. In 1945, he began a four-volume novel called The Roads to Freedom but gave up the novel form after finishing the third volume in 1949. In 1946, he continued to develop his philosophy in Existentialism and Humanism.
In the 1950s and 60s, he devoted himself to studies of literary figures like Baudelaire, Jean Genet, and Flaubert. The Family Idiot, his work on Flaubert, was massive, but only three of four volumes were published. Sartre’s health and vision declined in his later years, and he died in 1980.
President Lyndon Johnson Signs the Highway Beautification Act
October 22, 1965
On October 22, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Highway Beautification Act, which attempts to limit billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising, as well as junkyards and other unsightly roadside messes, along America’s interstate highways.
The act also encouraged “scenic enhancement” by funding local efforts to clean up and landscape the green spaces on either side of the roadways. “This bill will enrich our spirits and restore a small measure of our national greatness,” Johnson said at the bill’s signing ceremony. “Beauty belongs to all the people. And so long as I am President, what has been divinely given to nature will not be taken recklessly away by man.”
The Highway Beautification Act was actually the pet project of the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Beauty, she believed, had real social utility: Cleaning up city parks, getting rid of ugly advertisements, planting flowers and screening junkyards from view, she thought, would make the nation a better place not only to look at but to live.
“The subject of Beautification is like a tangled skein of wool,” she wrote in her diary. “All the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health and the crime rate and rapid transit and highway beautification and the war on poverty and parks … everything leads to something else.”
Many urban activists, along with a number of other people who were beginning to think seriously about the consequences of the nation’s poor environmental stewardship, supported Mrs. Johnson’s efforts.
Business groups, polluters and advertisers, on the other hand, were not so thrilled. Lobbyists for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and their Republican allies managed to water down the highway-beautification bill significantly: Companies who had to take down their billboards were compensated handsomely by the government, for example and the law’s enforcement provisions were weak.
Still, Johnson’s bill was important: It declared that nature, even just the strips of nature along the country’s roadsides, was fragile and worth preserving, an idea that still holds great power today.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong Is Stripped of His Seven Tour de France Titles
October 22, 2012
On this day in 2012, Lance Armstrong is formally stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005 and banned for life from competitive cycling after being charged with systematically using illicit performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions as well as demanding that some of his Tour teammates dope in order to help him win races. It was a dramatic fall from grace for the onetime global cycling icon, who inspired millions of people after surviving cancer then going on to become one of the most dominant riders in the history of the grueling French race, which attracts the planet’s top cyclists. Born in Texas in 1971, Armstrong became a professional cyclist in 1992 and by 1996 was the number-one ranked rider in the world. However, in October 1996 he was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs, brain and abdomen. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Armstrong resumed training in early 1997 and in October of that year joined the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. Also in 1997, he established a cancer awareness foundation. The organization would famously raise millions of dollars through a sales campaign, launched in 2004, of yellow Livestrong wristbands.
In July 1999, to the amazement of the cycling world and less than three years after his cancer diagnosis, Armstrong won his first Tour de France. He was only the second American ever to triumph in the legendary, three-week race, established in 1903. (The first American to do so was Greg LeMond, who won in 1986, 1989 and 1990.) Armstrong went on to win the Tour again in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he became the first person ever to claim six Tour titles, and on July 24, 2005, Armstrong won his seventh straight title and retired from pro cycling. He made a comeback to the sport in 2009, finishing third in that year’s Tour and 23rd in the 2010 Tour, before retiring for good in 2011 at age 39.
Throughout his career, Armstrong, like many other top cyclists of his era, was dogged by accusations of performance-boosting drug use, but he repeatedly and vigorously denied all allegations against him and claimed to have passed hundreds of drug tests. In June 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), following a two-year investigation, charged the cycling superstar with engaging in doping violations from at least August 1998, and with participating in a conspiracy to cover up his misconduct. After losing a federal appeal to have the USADA charges against him dropped, Armstrong announced on August 23 that he would stop fighting them. However, calling the USADA probe an “unconstitutional witch hunt,” he continued to insist he hadn’t done anything wrong and said the reason for his decision to no longer challenge the allegations was the toll the investigation had taken on him, his family and his cancer foundation. The next day, USADA announced Armstrong had been banned for life from competitive cycling and disqualified of all competitive results from August 1, 1998, through the present.
On October 10, 2012, USADA released hundreds of pages of evidence—including sworn testimony from 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates, as well as emails, financial documents and lab test results—that the anti-doping agency said demonstrated Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team had been involved in the most sophisticated and successful doping program in the history of cycling. A week after the USADA report was made public, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his cancer foundation and was dumped by a number of his sponsors, including Nike, Trek and Anheuser-Busch. On October 22, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the cycling’s world governing body, announced that it accepted the findings of the USADA investigation and officially was erasing Armstrong’s name from the Tour de France record books and upholding his lifetime ban from the sport. In a press conference that day, the UCI president stated: “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling.”
After years of denials, Armstrong finally admitted publicly, in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired on January 17, 2013, he had doped for much of his cycling career, beginning in the mid-1990s through his final Tour de France victory in 2005. He admitted to using a performance-enhancing drug regimen that included testosterone, human growth hormone, the blood booster EPO and cortisone.