A selection of McNamara’s major speeches during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, between 1961 and 1968.

Robert McNamara Accepts Kennedy’s Invitation to Serve as Secretary of Defense

Flexible Response Speech

Presentation to NATO Ministerial Meeting, Athens

5 May 1962

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Counterforce “No Cities” Speech

Commencement Address, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

16 June 1962

“[P]rincipal military objectives, in the event of a nuclear war stemming from a major attack on the Alliance, should be the destruction of the enemy’s military forces, not of his civilian population.”

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Remarks to NATO Ministerial Meeting


15-17 December 1964

“Our strategic mobility, the increasing readiness of our high-priority reserve divisions and the very substantial ground and air forces that we can and will make available to the Alliance in the event of major crises constitute what I believe will be a useful contribution toward meeting the principal remaining threats to NATO.”

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Security in the Contemporary World

Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Montreal, Canada

18 May 1966

“From the point of view of combat readiness, the United States has never been militarily stronger. We intend to maintain that readiness. But if we think profoundly about the matter, it is clear that this purely military posture is not the central element in our security. A nation can reach the point at which it does not buy more security for itself simply by buying more military hardware. We are at that point. The decisive factor for a powerful nation already adequately armed is the character of its relationships with the world.”

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“Brains are Like Hearts”¬†Speech

Before Millsaps College Convocation, Jackson, Mississippi

24 February 1967

“Brains, on the whole, are like hearts. ¬†They go where they are appreciated.”

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Press Conference on (NATO) Nuclear Planning Group

Probably April 1967

Mutual Deterrence Speech

San Francisco

18 September 1967

“…we must be able to absorb the total weight of nuclear attack on our country — on our retaliatory forces, on our command and control apparatus, on our industrial capacity, on our cities, and on our population — and still be capable of damaging the aggressor to the point that his society would be simply no longer viable in twentieth-century terms.”
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