By Andy Franklin, NBC News senior producer
Given the tempestuous relationship the United States has had with Fidel Castro over the past half-century, it seems remarkable that his reign finally ended not with a bang, but as Brian points out, something closer to a whimper. Castro took control in Cuba on New Year's Day, 1959 - just two days before Alaska became a state; that's how long he's been in power. Since then, until his resignation today, he's been a thorn in the side of ten U.S. Presidents. What follows are just some of the things they've had to say about him over the years.
I am certain this government and all the American people hope that [Castro's] government will be truly representative of the Cuban people, and that his Government will achieve the ability to reflect their views, their aspirations, and to encourage and help their progress.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 28, 1959, three weeks after Castro took power
The Government of the United States is hereby formally terminating diplomatic and consular relations with the Government of Cuba…There is a limit to what the United States in self-respect can endure. That limit has now been reached…Meanwhile, our sympathy goes out to the people of Cuba now suffering under the yoke of a dictator.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 3, 1961
A nation of Cuba's size is less a threat to our survival than it is a base for subverting the survival of other free nations throughout the hemisphere. It is not primarily our interest or our security but theirs which is now, today, in the greater peril. It is for their sake as well as our own that we must show our will.
-- John F. Kennedy, April 20, 1961, during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion
I think we're all concerned about Cuba and, as you know, we're taking a lot of steps to try to isolate Castro who we believe is going to eventually fall.
-- John F. Kennedy, October 14, 1962 (as we later learned, this was the day that US reconnaissance photos revealed the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba)
It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
-- John F. Kennedy, October 22, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis
I don't accept the view that Mr. Castro is going to be in power in five years. I can't indicate the roads by which there will be a change, but I've seen enough--as we all have--enough change in the last 15 years to make me feel that time will see Cuba free again.
-- John F. Kennedy, April 19, 1963
I do not think that there is any doubt that Fidel Castro, as a symbol of revolt in this hemisphere, has faded badly…his torch is flickering.
-- John F. Kennedy, November 18, 1963, five days before his assassination
I would like very much to see the free people of Cuba be able to govern themselves without the dictations of Mr. Castro. We are going to do everything that we consistently can in our policies to see that the people of Cuba are free people.
-- Lyndon Johnson, August 29, 1964
As far as Castro is concerned, he has already drawn the line. He is exporting revolution all over the hemisphere...As long as Castro is adopting an antagonistic, anti-American line, we are certainly not going to normalize our relations with Castro. As soon as he changes his line toward us, we might consider it. But it is his move.
-- Richard Nixon, April 16, 1971
Let me say categorically and emphatically, the United States will have nothing to do with Castro's Cuba - period.
-- Gerald Ford, February 14, 1976
The eagerness of large numbers of Cubans to flee their own country is eloquent testimony to the failure of the totalitarian Castro regime.
-- Jimmy Carter, May 9, 1980
Don't let anyone fool you: What's happening in Cuba is not a failure of the Cuban people; it's a failure of Fidel Castro and of communism…Let us pledge ourselves to the freedom of the noble, long-suffering Cuban people. Viva Cuba Libre. Cuba, si; Castro, no.
-- Ronald Reagan, May 20, 1983
Today freedom is on the offensive, and young idealists are no longer being taken in by Castro as they once were. You know, he's been a great illusionist, but only for a time.
-- Ronald Reagan, July 23, 1986
Russia is withdrawing the former Soviet brigade and…ending all subsidies to Cuba. Castro is on his own.
-- George H.W. Bush, April 18, 1992
Our policies and principles rest on a single belief: For freedom to rise in Cuba, Fidel Castro must fall.
-- George H.W. Bush, October 23, 1992
The United States had done more than any other country to try to bring an end to the Castro government…We have worked hard, often laboring almost alone to that end. And we will continue to do that by whatever reasonable means are available to us.
-- Bill Clinton, August 19, 1994
I have no sympathy for the Castro regime…I think it is tragic how they have blown every conceivable opportunity to get closer to the United States.
-- Bill Clinton, January 18, 2000
If Mr. Castro does not allow free elections, he will be protecting his cronies at the expense of his people. And eventually, despite all his tools of oppression, Castro will need to answer to his people.
-- George W. Bush, May 20, 2002
We'll continue to press for freedom on the island of Cuba. One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away and then the question is, what will be the approach of the U.S. Government?
-- George W. Bush, June 28, 2007
The question really should be, what does this mean for the people in Cuba? They are the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro. They are the ones put in prison because of their beliefs. They are the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society…I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a period of a democratic transition…And we're going to help.
-- George W. Bush today, on the news that Fidel Castro had resigned.