There are 11 million oppressed people in Cuba. They’ve been oppressed for more than 50 years. They are our neighbors.

“I’m here to talk about Cuba. There are 11 million oppressed people in Cuba. They’ve been oppressed for more than 50 years. They are our neighbors. The only nations closer to us are Canada and Mexico. Cuba and Havana are only 90 miles from the most southerly point in the U.S.—Key West.

If you could drive it, it would be an hour and 20 minutes. By air, it’s 20 minutes. By boat, perhaps two and half hours, depending on what you’re driving. If you could walk it, it would take less than 30 hours. I’m trying to say, ‘Cuba is close.’ Realize Cuba is our very close neighbor—always has been, always will be. But it’s even closer today, due to the speed of travel and modern communications. “The Cuban people are our friends.

The vast majority, if not all of them, love America and American ideals. The Cuban people are a lot like Americans were back in the 1950s. They’ve been caught in a time warp caused by Fidel’s Revolution and stubbornness. Fidel, of course, has been an American political leadership nemesis and bad guy poster child for many years.

But, why did he, how did he, gain power?

That is a historical question, with an answer that is not frequently remembered in the 21st century. But, the answer is not unlike the answers explaining our failed foreign policy right here in the Western Hemisphere with many of our neighbors in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Mexico. Mass mismanagement!

“To refresh your memory, in Cuba, Fidel came to power to depose the American-supported dictator by the name of Batista, remember him?

The U.S. helped him arrange a military coup because we didn’t like the prior dictator the U.S. put in power. We believe, we say, in democracy, rule of law, free markets and power to the people. But what do we do to our neighbors, the Cuban people?

Do you doubt that what we’ve done, and do now, is for any reason other than the economic gain of some special interest group with lots of money, influence and votes?

“If we, the U.S. Government, put someone in power and keep them in power, are we not smart enough and powerful enough to make a deal that assures a democratic future?

I think yes. “Ladies and gentlemen, the United States directly or indirectly put Fidel in the driver’s seat. Then we proceeded to mismanage him, the situation deteriorated and unbelievably, we lost friends and neighbors only 90 miles away. And before we could figure out what was going on in Cuba, we were on the outside looking in.

The accountability process fails, the communication process fails, leadership fails! Democracy, I’m confident, is the best system in the world, history proves it, but it is only as good as the stewards we elect to protect and perpetuate American ideals. “Therefore, the failure of America’s elected politicians and their Cuban policy brought, permitted, Fidel to come to power, and then another series of leadership bad decisions, bad foreign policy, permitted Fidel and his revolution to become perhaps the last, or certainly the best, well-known dictatorship in the world over the next 50-plus years. Ninety miles off the coast of the United States is our closest noncontiguous neighbor, 11 million depressed, oppressed neighbors!

They are hungry for freedom, democracy and the American way, but intent upon retaining their rich heritage, culture and control of their way of life. They want help, but not domination, and interference by the United States. “As their closest neighbors, we should have addressed those needs, probably through Fidel in the beginning and before he nationalized U.S. assets in Cuba. American business lost hundreds of billions of dollars. The IRS lost hundreds of millions in taxes. The U.S. lost what should have been a strategically located ally 90 miles off our coast. Worse, we wasted 50 years of influence in Cuba and permitted Russia

Russia! — six thousand miles away—to endanger every American son and daughter during the years of the Cold War! “So, you’re wondering, what am I trying to say?

In my judgment, the current Cuban mess was America’s own fault, continues to be our own fault, and that now is way past time to correct the problem. And, that is my mission, my personal Signature Event as an ordinary American, a citizen diplomat with many resources, to try to lead the American people to a peaceful coexistence with 11 million of our good neighbors to the south, the people of Cuba.