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American Speeches: Political Oratory from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton

by Ted Widmer

From the book: Public speeches have profoundly shaped American history and culture, transforming not only our politics but also our language and our sense of national identity. This volume collects the unabridged texts of 83 eloquent and dramatic speeches delivered by 45 American public figures between 1865 and 1997, beginning with Abraham Lincoln's last speech on Reconstruction and ending with Bill Clinton's heartfelt tribute to the Little Rock Nine. During this period American political oratory continued to evolve, as a more conversational style, influenced by the intimacy of radio and television, emerged alongside traditional forms of rhetoric. Included are speeches on Reconstruction by Thaddeus Stevens and African-American congressman Robert Brown Elliott, Frederick Douglass's brilliant oration on Abraham Lincoln, and Oliver Wendell Holmes's "touched with fire" Memorial Day Address. Speeches by Robert Ingersoll and William Jennings Bryan capture the fervor of 19th-century political conventions, while Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Schurz offer opposing views on imperialism. Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell denounce the cruelty of lynching and the injustice of Jim Crow; Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt advocate the enfranchisement of women; and Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge present conflicting visions of the League of Nations. Also included are wartime speeches by George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower; an address on the atomic bomb by J. Robert Oppenheimer; Richard Nixon's "Checkers Speech"; Malcolm X's "The Ballot or the Bullet"; Barry Goldwater's speech to the 1964 Republican convention; Mario Savio urging Berkeley students to stop "the machine"; Barbara Jordan defending the Constitution during Watergate; and an extensive selection of speeches by Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Ted Widmer, editor, is t

Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy

by Ted Widmer

In July 1962, in an effort to preserve an accurate record of Presidential decision-making in a highly charged atmosphere of conflicting viewpoints, strategies and tactics, John F. Kennedy installed hidden recording systems in the Oval Office and in the Cabinet Room. The result is a priceless historical archive comprising some 265 hours of taped material. JFK was elected president when Civil Rights tensions were near the boiling point, and Americans feared a nuclear war. Confronted with complex dilemmas necessitating swift and unprecedented action, President Kennedy engaged in intense discussion and debate with his cabinet members and other advisors. Now, in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy presidency, the John F. Kennedy Library and historian Ted Widmer have carefully selected the most compelling and important of these remarkable recordings for release, fully restored and re-mastered onto two 75-minute CDs for the first time. Listening In represents a uniquely unscripted, insider account of a president and his cabinet grappling with the day-to-day business of the White House and guiding the nation through a hazardous era of uncertainty. Accompanied by extensively annotated transcripts of the recordings, and with a foreword by Caroline Kennedy, Listening In delivers the story behind the story in the unguarded words and voices of the decision-makers themselves. Listening In covers watershed events, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, Vietnam, and the arms race, and offers fascinating glimpses into the intellectual methodology of a circumspect president and his brilliant, eclectic brain trust. Just as the unique vision of President John F. Kennedy continues to resonate half a century after his stirring speeches and bold policy decisions, the documentary candor of Listening In imparts a vivid, breathtaking immediacy that will significantly expand our understanding of his time in office.

Martin Van Buren (The American Presidents Series)

by Ted Widmer Arthur M. Schlesinger

The first president born after America's independence ushers in a new era of no-holds-barred democracy The first "professional politician" to become president, the slick and dandyish Martin Van Buren was to all appearances the opposite of his predecessor, the rugged general and Democratic champion Andrew Jackson. Van Buren, a native Dutch speaker, was America's first ethnic president as well as the first New Yorker to hold the office, at a time when Manhattan was bursting with new arrivals. A sharp and adroit political operator, he established himself as a powerhouse in New York, becoming a U.S. senator, secretary of state, and vice president under Jackson, whose election he managed. His ascendancy to the Oval Office was virtually a foregone conclusion. Once he had the reins of power, however, Van Buren found the road quite a bit rougher. His attempts to find a middle ground on the most pressing issues of his day-such as the growing regional conflict over slavery-eroded his effectiveness. But it was his inability to prevent the great banking panic of 1837, and the ensuing depression, that all but ensured his fall from grace and made him the third president to be denied a second term. His many years of outfoxing his opponents finally caught up with him. Ted Widmer, a veteran of the Clinton White House, vividly brings to life the chaos and contention that plagued Van Buren's presidency-and ultimately offered an early lesson in the power of democracy.

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