Originally published 06/26/2013
Ted Widmer is assistant to the president for special projects at Brown University. He recently edited “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.”The last of John F. Kennedy’s extraordinary troika of speeches in June 1963 occurred on this day, 50 years ago.With each, he broke new ground. On June 10, at American University in Washington, he sketched a vision of coexistence with the Soviet Union, strikingly at odds with the more bellicose messages of 1961 and 1962. On June 11, in a televised address, he endorsed the civil rights movement and promised a bill, far in advance of what any president had done, and in advance of where he himself was a few months earlier.On June 26 he came to Berlin, on one of the most frenzied days in the history of the Cold War. A huge crowd — estimated at 1.1 million, or 58 percent of Berlin’s population — came out to see him.
Originally published 02/13/2013
Ted Widmer, assistant to the president for special projects at Brown University, is the editor of “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.” A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he was recently a consultant to the State Department.THE bright blue tie worn by President Obama to his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening was an accurate barometer of the weather. This was the most Democratic State of the Union in some time, not just in the range of government initiatives he proposed — the annual speech is usually a long laundry list — but because it set a new tone.Mr. Obama was looser than he has been in these previous annual messages to Congress — and unapologetic about his belief in government as an instrument to improve people’s lives. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, might have been right when he snorted, in the blur of televised commentary that followed, that it was the most liberal speech by a president to Congress since Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.