October 01, 2008

Sorensen to discuss ‘A Life at the Edge of History’

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Theodore C. “Ted” Sorensen, who served as special counsel and adviser, and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy, will present a lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week.

Sorensen will discuss “A Life at the Edge of History,” at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 8, in the Student Center ballrooms. Admission is free. Sorensen will host a book signing of his autobiography, “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History,” immediately after his speech in the John W. Corker Lounge.

Sorensen’s visit is part of the Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture series. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and SIUC’s Department of Political Science sponsor the lecture.

Media Availability

Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend a media availability with Theodore C. “Ted” Sorensen at 3:45 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 8, in the lobby of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

“Ted Sorensen was a key player in some of the most riveting, important moments in American history,” institute Director Mike Lawrence said. “We are looking forward to an enlightening, fascinating evening with him.”

In 1953, Sorensen began working as a legislative assistant for John F. Kennedy, a then-freshman senator from Massachusetts. His professional and personal relationship with Kennedy over the next 11 years would lead Sorensen to the White House as special counsel and adviser to the president. Sorensen’s efforts included working with Kennedy on his most important speeches, including Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address and correspondence to Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sorensen also collaborated with Kennedy on Kennedy’s 1956 best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.”

Sorensen is the respected author of several books on politics and foreign affairs, including the 1965 book, “Kennedy.” Sorensen is of counsel with the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP after practicing international law for more than 36 years as a senior partner.

Sorensen graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1951, went to Washington, D.C., and was initially hired by the Federal Security Administration, the forerunner to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He then went to work with the Joint Senate House Committee on Railroad Retirement, and went to work for Kennedy in January 1953.

In a review of Sorensen’s autobiography, released in May, the Los Angeles Times noted that Kennedy once described Sorensen as Kennedy’s “intellectual blood bank.” The newspaper stated the book “is not only a fascinating memoir but also this election year’s most important political book.”

Now 80, Sorensen, who notes in the book that “I am still a loyal American, and I am still a real liberal,” remains an optimist.

“I still believe that extraordinary leaders can be found and elected, that future dangers can be confronted and resolved, that people are essentially good and ultimately right in their judgments,” he writes in the book’s epilogue. “I still believe that a world of law is waiting to emerge, enshrining peace and freedom throughout the world. I still believe that the mildest and most obscure of Americans can be rescued from oblivion by good luck, sudden changes in fortunes, sudden encounters with heroes.

“I believe it because I lived it.”

Sorensen’s wife, Gillian, is a senior adviser at the U.N. Foundation. She was a past speaker for the institute in October 2006.

The lecture coincides with a reception honoring Jerome M. “Jerry” Mileur on Thursday, Oct. 9. The reception begins at 4 p.m. at University Museum. Mileur, originally from Murphysboro, is a professor emeritus in political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, retiring in 2004 after a 37-year teaching career there. He earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication in 1955, and doctorate in government in 1971, both from SIUC. Earlier this year, Mileur donated his significant political memorabilia collection covering presidential elections and politics to the public policy institute. The exhibit, featuring close to 1,500 objects, including historic buttons and ribbons, 135 framed works from political cartoons and posters, and other items, is on display at SIUC’s University Museum through Nov. 4.

In 1995, Mileur established the public affairs lecture series to bring speakers to campus in the spring and fall of each year. He established the series to honor two of his political science professors -- Ward Morton and David Kenney -- who inspired Mileur as a student.