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  • 7/24/2010

The Day in History: Nixon and Khrushchev Engage in "Kitchen Debate" (1959)

kitchen debate

The Kitchen Debate was an impromptu debate (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, on July 24, 1959. For the event, an entire house was built that the American exhibitors claimed anyone in America could afford. It was filled with labor saving and recreational devices meant to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market.

The Kitchen Debate was the first high-level meeting between Soviet and U.S. leaders since the Geneva Summit in 1955. It took place in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half so it could be viewed easily. The Russians referred to it as “splitnik,” a play on words of the Soviet Union’s satellite Sputnik. The two men discussed the merits of each of their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism. The debate took place during an escalation of the Cold War, beginning with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, through the ­U-2 Crisis in 1960. Most Americans believed Nixon won the debate, adding to his prestige in that country. It was recorded on color videotape, a new technology pioneered in the U.S.; during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances. He also boasted achievements such as dishwashers, lawnmowers, supermarkets stocked full of groceries, Cadillac convertibles, makeup colors, lipstick, spike-heeled shoes, hi-fi sets, cake mixes, TV dinners, and Pepsi-Cola. It was Nixon’s emphasis on America’s household appliances, such as the washing machine, that helped give the event its title, “The Kitchen Debate.”

khrushchev-nixon

Both men argued for their country’s industrial accomplishments, with Khrushchev stressing the Russians’ focus on “things that matter” rather than luxury. He satirically asked if there was a machine that "puts food into the mouth and pushes it down". Nixon responded by saying at least the competition was technological, rather than military. In the end, both men agreed that the United States and the Soviet Union should be more open with each other. However, Khrushchev was skeptical of Nixon's promise that his part in the debate would be translated into English and broadcast in the U.S.

The kitchen was designed by All-State Properties in Florida. Following the debate the company was inspired to market affordable second homes.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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