Kennedy Speechwriter Ted Sorensen to Speak at U.Va. on Presidential Leadership

April 13, 2010 — Theodore Sorensen, speechwriter and special counsel to the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, will speak at the University of Virginia on "Presidential Leadership: Then and Now" on April 15 at 6 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom.

The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by U.Va.'s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, named for Sorensen's late brother, Tom.

Following the talk, Sorensen will be available to sign copies of his bestselling 2008 memoir, "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History." 

Sorensen collaborated with Kennedy to craft some of the most compelling political speeches of the 20th century, including the famous exhortation, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," in Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address.

One of Kennedy's closest advisers on both domestic and foreign matters, Sorensen sat on ExComm, the small group of advisers credited with helping resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In February, Sorenson, 81, received the National Medal of Humanities for "advancing our understanding of modern American politics," according to the citation. "As a speechwriter and adviser to President Kennedy, he helped craft messages and policies, and later gave us a window into the people and events that made history."

Following his career in Washington, Sorensen practiced law at the prominent New York firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Focused on international clients, he helped establish the South Africa Free Elections Fund, which raised millions of dollars for voter education ahead of South Africa's first post-apartheid election. 

He continued as a close adviser to the Kennedy family, and was a key adviser to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign.
Alongside Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sorensen was an early and vocal supporter of Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency.

The talk kicks off the Batten School's Common Grounds public event series.

— By Brevy Cannon