David Goldberg on Daily Life During the Cuban Missile Crisis

[Caption to above photograph: “Map of North and South America showing potential ranges of Soviet medium-range (MRBM) and intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from Cuba.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.]

This story clip can be aligned to the following Ohio Department of Education Social Studies Standards:

  • American History #2: The use of primary and secondary sources of information includes an examination of the credibility of each source.
  • American History #3: Historians develop theses and use evidence to support or refute positions.
  • American History #24: The United States followed a policy of containment during the Cold War in response to the spread of communism.
  • American History #33: The United States faced new political, national security and economic challenges in the post-Cold War world and following the attacks on September 11, 2001.


In this clip, historian Dr. David Goldberg briefly describes his increasing interest in political issues, University of Wisconsin-Madison protests towards the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the popular American reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is easy for contemporary interpretations of the Cuban Missile Crisis to assume that Americans experienced extreme fear and anxiety during this crisis; however, Dr. Goldberg, underscores the fact that people continued their daily routine despite the impending nuclear crisis. The question posed by Chris Morris at 0:49-0:54 is “What was it like being part of that … around the Cuban Missile Crisis?” His remark that “Football stadiums were filled…” presents a picture of daily life during the crisis that is a stark contrast to how students assume Americans acted during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is easily contrasted with the national sentiment during and after the 9/11 attacks.

Potential Classroom Uses:
1. Compare and contrast the reactions of the American people during the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11.
2. Look for supplementary sources and use them to corroborate Dr. Goldberg’s account. Were the American people largely undeterred by the danger of the Cuban Missile Crisis? A key difficulty with oral histories is that one person’s viewpoints may be completely subjective to an event and may not represent the majority group’s view or opinion. Based on the evidence, does Dr. Goldberg’s take represent the majority of American’s reactions to the Cuban Missile Crisis? What are the similarities between his experience and your evidence? What are the differences?
3. Based on your evidence, what events, people, technology, or attitudes unique to the time periods mentioned influenced the popular response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11? In other words, what made the American experience of anxiety similar or different based on your findings?

Click on this link for the full interview and a spot to download the audio file: David Goldberg Interview 15 June 2016

Photo credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. “PX66-20:13. Briefing Board #13: [Map of Western Hemisphere showing ranges of 1100 and 2200 nautical miles].” 6 February 1963.