Key Kennedy advisor visits San Francisco

May 17, 2010 7:45:12 PM PDT
A key advisor to President John F. Kennedy was in San Francisco Monday, talking about the man he worked for. Ted Sorensen was special counsel to the president and wrote most of Kennedy's speeches.

ABC7 spoke with Sorenson about his reflections -- from Camelot to Cuba.

Sorensen was at Kennedy's side when the United States came the closest it has ever been to a nuclear war -- the Cuban Missile Crisis, in the early 60s. The former Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba within striking distance of the United States.

Sorensen, Kennedy's former counselor and speechwriter, vividly remembers that frightening time.

"No one knew what the right answer was, we had tried going through United Nations secretary general, tried direct messages from Kennedy to Khrushchev through back channels; nothing had worked up to that day," Sorensen said.

He says the movie "13 Days" got most of it right as Kennedy tried to find a peaceful solution to stop a potential nuclear war.

"The generals thought that the only real way to get rid of those Soviet missiles pointed at the United States was to bomb them and follow that up with an invasion; if we'd done that, you and I wouldn't be sitting here today," Sorensen said.

A stroke and partial blindness have not dulled the emotions and memories of a world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust in October 1962.

Kennedy's trust in Sorenson was so high, that he asked Sorensen to help Bobby Kennedy draft a letter to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the most critical point of the first nuclear confrontation between global superpowers. Sorensen was just 34.

"We worked together in a process of collaboration; during the first year, I was a lowly research assistant, but then after one year, he asked me to help on a speech and he liked my draft of the speech and after that I couldn't get rid of the speechwriting job," Sorensen said.

Sorensen said historians will also remember Kennedy for his work in the civil rights movement and the decision to send a man to the moon. Sorensen is writing another book. He just celebrated his 82nd birthday this month.


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