Monday, November 1, 2010

Ted Sorensen: Jeffrey Sach's gratitudes

The world lost one of its brightest lights today. Ted Sorensen, counselor to John F. Kennedy, has died at the age of 82. His genius as the greatest modern speechwriter is legendary. His role as a man of peace is less widely known but even greater. Together with Kennedy, Sorensen helped to save the world in the harrowing years of the Cold War, and to put into words the ideas that can preserve peace in our time and in the generations that will follow.

To know Sorensen was to be blessed with the company of a compassionate and cheerful genius. I first met Ted several years ago. His stroke a few years earlier had left him mostly blind. Yet the stroke had not in the slightest diminished Ted's clarity of mind, precision of speech, ready wit, and zest for life. In any gathering, he'd have the assembled guests roaring with laughter at his wit, and then pondering the deepest questions through his wisdom, gentle urging, and retelling of some fascinating episode of history. Until the end of his life, Ted was actively writing (including his marvelous memoirs), lecturing, and generally sharing his great wisdom and experience with each new generation of leaders and global statesmen.

Ted was our vital link to the hope, idealism, and vision of John Kennedy. With Ted's passing, we are cast adrift, and find ourselves even more dangerously at sea in a tempest of cynicism and pessimism. Sorensen stood for something else: the eternal hope for a better world, the belief that humanity, flawed and faltering, could yet find a way to survive and even to thrive. It is a spirit too often absent from our social life today. We must cling to it -- to Ted's great ideas and words -- if we are to survive.

I loved every opportunity that I had to be with Ted, including a dinner recently where he charmed a visiting high-level delegation from Bhutan, the mountain kingdom famed for its quest for happiness. The Prime Minister of Bhutan spoke movingly that evening about how Sorensen's words, in Kennedy's greatest speeches, had inspired Bhutan in its quest for democracy. The assembled dinner guests listened to a recording of Kennedy giving his wondrous speech to the Irish Parliament, recounting the great gifts of small countries to the world. Ted showed his delight, listening to some of his own words more than a half-century later. The Bhutanese were smitten with affection for Ted, as were all the guests. Ted resolved that evening to make his way to the Himalayan Kingdom during the coming year and plans were already in the works.

Sorensen's deepest belief was in the ability of humanity to solve its problems, and especially to find the way to peace. He never wavered in his faith in humanity, and that faith imbued some of the greatest phrases and actions of our age. Ted's belief in peace underpinned the wise counsel he gave during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he expressed skepticism at the calls by the generals to bomb Cuba and risk nuclear Armageddon. We owe our very survival to the wisdom of John and Robert Kennedy, and Ted Sorensen, for their search for a peaceful resolution of the most dangerous crisis in the history of the world.

Please continue reading here and be sure to read Jeffrey Sach's Bio as well and the comments which follow this article.

I am not familiar with this author yet Professor Jeffrey Sach's other blogposts look equally quite insightful and about the active seeking of peace.

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