Obama speechwriter pays tribute to JFK counselor Theodore C. Sorensen

Adam Frankel praises the unique relationship between two men who crafted words that changed a nation.

How do you honor a legend in his field? Well, if he’s a speechwriter, you give a speech.

Theodore C. Sorensen—the adviser who gave President John F. Kennedy some of his most memorable phrases—was remembered as “the greatest speechwriter of them all” at a Ragan speechwriting conference Tuesday.

Adam Frankel, Sorensen’s former assistant and a current senior speechwriter to President Obama, offered a tribute to the man who gave the nation the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

It was Sorensen who collaborated with Kennedy for the 1961 inaugural address, which proclaimed that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

Frankel described the collaboration between Kennedy and Sorensen as unique, “and what is unique by definition cannot be replicated.”

A touch of magic

“Even now, all these many years later, it is nearly impossible to unravel the mystery of how those speeches came together, to know for certain who wrote what, to understand fully what it was that made that collaboration so special,” Frankel said. “But whatever it was had a touch of magic.”

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.