Adlai Stevenson at the United Nation

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By the 1960s, two-time Presidential candidate (and two-time loser) Adlai Stevenson was considered America’s elder statesman. The relationship between him and John F. Kennedy to whom he lost Democratic nomination in 1960 was not cordial, and this led to Stevenson being passed over for the Secretary of State position. However, he was appointed American ambassador to the UN. 

At the UN, he disagreed with many of Kennedy’s actions. In April 1961, Stevenson suffered the greatest humiliation of his career when he unwittingly denied that the Bay of Pigs attack was financed by the CIA. Misled by the White House, and forged photographs, he considered to resign the ambassadorship. It was fortunate that he didn’t, because a year later, Stevenson would get his finest hour. 

On October 25, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, he gave a presentation at an emergency session of the Security Council. Stevenson, already known for his wit and rhetoric, gave one of the speeches of his political career. He forcefully asked the Soviet representative, Valerian Zorin, if his country was installing missiles in Cuba, punctuated with the famous demand “Don’t wait for the translation, answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’!” Following Zorin’s refusal to answer the abrupt question, Stevenson retorted, “I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over.” In a diplomatic coup, Stevenson then showed photographs that proved the existence of missiles in Cuba, just after the Soviet ambassador had implied they did not exist.