Sorensen legacy remembered

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November 1st, 2010

Lincoln, NE – A Nebraska political icon is being remembered for his way with words and his role in helping determine the legacy of a President. Ted Sorensen was born and raised in Lincoln. He died Sunday in New York City at the age of 82 after suffering a stroke.

It could have all turned out differently after Ted Sorensen left Lincoln as a young lawyer to make a career in Washington politics. Mike Wagner, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, said Sorensen interviewed for positions with two incoming Democratic senators: Henry “Scoop” Jackson from Washington, and the incoming junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. “He interviewed with both of them,” he said, “He just felt like he would have more to do, and more interesting things to do, with JFK.”

Sorensen soon became the speech writer and a key policy advisor to JFK in the Senate and the White House. While Sorensen was reluctant to claim it for himself, Wagner said he is credited with writing some of the most influential political rhetoric in history. Sorensen helped JFK write the book, Profiles In Courage, and Kennedy’s landmark inaugural address. But he was also on the inside helping draft crucial communications with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wagner said Sorensen was valuable to President Kennedy because he would not always say what Kennedy wanted to hear.

“His opinion was sought on tough decisions because he wasn’t a “yes” man,” he said. “Make no mistake, he was extraordinarily loyal. He never spoke about Kennedy’s personal life, was rare to admit a Kennedy mistake during Kennedy’s life or after he was assassinated. But he was a person who could tell the truth to JFK himself.” “When Sorensen disagreed with him,” he said, “he would say so. And that’s one reason he got into, and stayed in, the room”

Sorensen left the White House after Kennedy’s assassination and later joined a New York City law firm. He continued to advise Democratic candidates. Nebraska Democratic Party Chairman, Vic Covalt, said in a written statement that Sorensen freely offered his wisdom and counsel, and that he truly gave America the promise of a new frontier.

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