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:

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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.

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