One of the last surviving members of John F. Kennedy's inner circle Theodore C. Sorensen, has passed away aged 82. A speech writer for the president Sorensen accompanied JFK on his trip to Ireland in 1963.
He died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital following complications arising form a stroke he suffered a week ago.
Irish author and journalist Ryan Tubridy who interviewed Sorensen for a documentary on JFK paid tribute to him calling him an “extraordinary gentleman of great humility”.
Speaking on RTE radio Tubridy revealed a vivid memory that Sorensen had of his trip to Ireland with JFK.
“He told me a great story of how when President Kennedy was in Ireland, they were in a helicopter coming down from one part of the country to another and President Kennedy was putting the final touches to a speech for Leinster House and in the middle of the speech he is looking at him and said: “Ted what's this your giving me here about quoting David Lloyd George, do you know where I am going to deliver a speech?” and Mr Sorensen said “Mr President I am very sorry about that, there seems to be an error and we'll change it.”
He did and by the time the speech was read out in Leinster House that afternoon it went from “As David Lloyd George once said” to “As one of the great orators of the English language once said”, and so he got the quote in but didn’t attribute it to George for fear of offending.”
“But that's how savvy Kennedy was and how clever Sorensen was. It was an extremely intelligent articulate eloquent double act the like of which we will never see again,” Tubridy added.
A writer and a counselor for the former President, Sorensen played a pivotal role in shaping JFK's public image.
“You need a mind like Sorensen’s around you that’s clicking and clicking all the time,” Kennedy’s archrival, Richard M. Nixon, said in 1962.
Some of his best known work with Kennedy included the president's 1961 inaugural address proclaiming that the “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and challenging citizens: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Sorensen was first hired as a researcher with Kennedy soon after he was elected as a senator. He worked closely with JFK on “Profiles in Courage” the 1956 book that won Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize.
During his tenure with Kennedy he held the title of special counsel but Washington reporters labeled him the president's “intellectual alter ego”.
In October 1962 he composed a letter from Kennedy to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev which helped to end the Cuban missile crisis.
Speaking about the letter to the New York Times years later, Sorensen recalled the pressure he was under: “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.”
After the presidents assassination he practiced law in mostly with the New York firm of Paul,Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garris.
Sorensen remained active in Democratic politics throughout his life endorsed Barack Obama for presidency saying that he reminded him of JFK “It reminds me of the way the young, previously unknown J. F. K. took off,” Sorensen told The Times in 2007.
Speaking about dis death President Obama said Sunday in a statement, “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.”