Monday, November 01, 2010

JFK's Alter Ego

Just half a century after an election that put him into the White House with John F. Kennedy for a memorable thousand days, Ted Sorensen has died, the last living link to a time that, in today's political world, seems a distant dream.

They would say in those days, "When Jack is hurt, Ted bleeds," and loyalty was certainly a Sorensen trait, but there was so much more.

He stubbornly refused to admit he had ghost-written "Profiles in Courage," the Pulitzer Prize book about political courage that first brought JFK to prominence, admitting only he had helped with research and editing.

As for the famous line in the inaugural, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country," Sorensen would only say with a smile about its origin, "Ask not."

Theodore Chaikin Sorensen provided Kennedy not only with words but with the heartland ideals that came from his own heritage as a Nebraska-born "Danish Russian Jewish Unitarian" born to a staunch Republican and a feminist mother.

When they met, Kennedy had proclaimed, "I am not a liberal," and he wasn't but, over the years with Sorensen's influence, grew beyond the confines of his own background of great wealth and privilege into the man the world remembers now.

Over time, I was privileged to know and work with Ted on many projects, including Robert Kennedy's memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and became enough of a friend to be invited to the wedding reception when he married his beloved Gillian.

He was a soft-spoken, gentle man but a fierce idealist who did not let age and infirmity slow him down. Two years ago, nearly blind, he was out campaigning for Barack Obama, in whom he saw many of the qualities of his alter ego, John F. Kennedy.

Ted Sorensen leaves this world and the country he loved in a much more troubled state than it was half a century ago, but it is infinitely better for his having been a part of it.

1 comment:

audreygeddes said...

What an amazing and brilliant man. He is an inspiration. You are so fortunate to have worked with him :}. I have been immersed in the story of the Kennedy presidency and just finished "The Kennedy Detail," by one of the Kennedy's secret service agents, Gerald Blaine, which gave me a whole new perspective on JFK's assassination and his life. I highly recommend this one.