Talking with Former Kennedy Speechwriter Ted Sorensen

Monday, November 01, 2010


John F. Kennedy's speechwriter and counselor, Theodore Sorensen, died in New York on Sunday at the age of 82.  He was one of the last living links to the JFK administration.

Sorensen first went to work for Kennedy when Kennedy became a Massachusetts senator and remained a member of his staff until Kennedy's assasination in 1963. Sorensen has since advised presidents and leaders around the world, including Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

In 2008, Sorensen spoke with the Leonard Lopate Show about his memoir, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History. He talked about his position as Special Counsel to the presdent and called the 11 years with John F. Kennedy the most "interesting, challenging and useful" years of his life. Though, he says, he didn't get much sleep. Sorensen also discusses his role as Kennedy's chief speechwriter and his work on Kennedy's famous inaugural address, which included the line: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Not long after Kennedy's death in 1963, reporter Patricia Marx interviewed Sorensen about the Vietnam War. At the time, Sorensen was working in New York as lawyer and editor-at-large of the Saturday Review.  He wrote a controversial article for the magazine called, "The War in Vietnam: How We Can End It."  Writing this article broke Sorensen's four year silence about Vietnam. He called for a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and an increase in negotiation.

Special thanks to WNYC's Andy Lanset.


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