Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nov. 2: Celebrating a Wordsmith

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Ted Sorenson was President John F. Kennedy's aide, speechwriter and close friend. Until his death Sunday at age 82, Sorenson also protected the Kennedy legacy.

It has been a parlor game to guess whether he or Kennedy wrote some of the most stirring lines of Kennedy's speeches, including the most stirring, part of Kennedy's inaugural speech: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

The exact source doesn't matter. The sentiment is what counts.

Sorenson was also a crucial advisor to Kennedy at a time when it really counted - during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Kennedy was trying to communicate the right messages to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. At one nail-biting moment, Kennedy ignored a letter from Khrushchev with a hard-line tone and responded to a softer letter; Sorenson is said to have been one of those who advised Kennedy to do so.

Sorenson knew plenty about messages. Those who will be elected to office today would do well to heed his lessons - and those words spoken by his boss on that cold January day in 1961.

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