Why JFK Wanted the World to Think He Wrote His Inaugural Address by Himself

A show about the mysteries of English.
Dec. 17 2013 12:45 PM

The Crowdsourcing of JFK’s Most Iconic Speech

Listen to Slate's show about the crafting of President Kennedy’s inaugural address.

Listen to Lexicon Valley episode No. 34: Ask Not Who Wrote “Ask Not”

As part of a package commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I wrote a piece last month here on Slate about the crowdsourced effort that was JFK's inaugural address. Kennedy’s chief speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, is believed to be the primary author, with a handful of others chipping in. As I wrote:

Advertisement

Although Sorensen was without question the chief architect of Kennedy’s inaugural, the final draft contained contributions or borrowings from, among others, the Old Testament, the New Testament, Lincoln, Kennedy rival and two-time Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and, we believe, Kennedy himself.

But Kennedy went to great lengths to obscure the contributions of others. Why? Bob Garfield and I talk to Richard Tofel, author of Sounding the Trumpet: The Making of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address.

You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

Send your thoughts about the show to slatelexiconvalley@gmail.com.

Mike Vuolo is a radio and podcast producer and the host of Lexicon Valley.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.