Famed JFK Speechwriter Ted Sorensen Dead at 82

By Michael Preston
|  Monday, Nov 1, 2010  |  Updated 4:30 AM CDT
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John F. Kennedy, Ted Sorensen

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Theodore Sorensen, a counselor to President John F. Kennedy and the wordsmith of Camelot's most famed speeches, died on October 31. He was 82.

Hid death was due to complications of a stroke he suffered a week ago, according to his wife, Gillian Sorensen.

Sorensen is perhaps best known for JFK's inaugural address, in which the young president directed Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." He drew from many sources, including the Bible, the Gettysburg Address, and the works of Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill to imbue the speech with a sense of hope.

Sorensen first was hired as a researcher by then-Senator Kennedy in 1953 and worked closely with the future president on "Profiles in Courage," a 1956 book that earned JFK the Pulitzer Prize.

After Kennedy's assassination, Sorensen practiced law and continued to work in politics. But he would remain linked in the public mind with the 35th President of the United States.

Sorensen was most proud of a letter he drafted during the Cuban Missle Crisis. In October of 1962, he wrote a letter from Kennedy to Soviet  leader Nikita Kruschchev imploring him to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"I knew that any mistakes in my letter - anything that angered or soured Khrushchev - could result in the end of America, maybe the end of the world, " he said.

 The speechwriter took a particular interest in Barack Obama during his run for president and endorsed the Illinois senator's candidacy.

"It reminds me of the way the young, previously unknown J.F.K. too off," he said during an interview with the New York Times in 2007.

In a statement, President Obama said of Sorensen that, "I know his legacy will live on in the words he wrote, the causes he advanced, and the hearts of anyone who is inspired by the promise of a new frontier."

Sorensen completed his memoir, Counselor, over the final years of his life. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sons, a sister, brother and seven grandchildren.

Selected Reading: New York Times, BBC, Washington Post

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