Ted Sorensen, Special Counsel to JFK, Dies at 82

Theodore C. Sorensen, the special counsel to President John F. Kennedy who wrote the president's speeches and helped shape his policy, has died, according to an obituary in the New York Times. Sorensen is credited with the "passages of soaring rhetoric" that characterized Kennedy's speeches, including the famous line: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."


In his 2008 Big Think interview, Sorensen talked about the process of writing Kennedy's speeches, saying that Kennedy was pretty much the only person who would look at or edit his work: "Sometimes he would reject an entire paragraph. If I liked it, I might find the speech a couple of weeks later and I would try to sneak it back in. Sometimes he would recognize it when I did." Sorensen said he had a great sense of satisfaction and pride from the work he did back then.

In the interview, Sorensen also spoke about how politics has changed since the 1960s, saying that the "age of eloquence" had disappeared (referring specifically to President George W. Bush), and that there are now "very few substantive ideas."

Sorensen also addressed Kennedy's legacy, saying that people have now realized that Kennedy's "was an unusual presidency, and Kennedy was an unusual man." He spoke about the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, and the faulty intelligence that led to it—and said that the mistakes of that crisis helped inform Kennedy's actions later during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In looking back on the fallout from the Bay of Pigs, Sorensen said that the incident showed that leaders can own up to their mistakes and still remain popular. He also talked about the delicate decision-making process that presidents are faced with when diplomacy has failed and force is necessary.

To watch more of Big Think's interview with Ted Sorensen, click here.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less