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C.V. Starr Center for the


Study of the American Experience

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


Date: 6:00pm EDT March 20, 2013

Founding Starr Center director Ted Widmer to Discuss JFK’s Secret White House Recordings


In July 1962, John F. Kennedy installed a hidden recording system in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room and taped more than 265 hours of private conversation – from tense briefings about the emerging Cuban Missile Crisis to a cheery interlude with his 3-year-old son.

On Wednesday, March 20, historian Ted Widmer will return to Washington College to talk about the new book he has produced in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Library – Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy. With a foreword by Caroline Kennedy, Listening In includes 150 minutes of the most compelling of those recordings on CD, as well as transcripts accompanied by historic photographs and Widmer’s extensive annotations. The talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge at Hodson Hall, and will be followed by a book signing.

“This is an opportunity to eavesdrop on a president and his cabinet grappling with the day-to-day business of the White House and guiding the country through an extremely dangerous time,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which is sponsoring the event. “Ted Widmer brings to bear not just the insights of a superb historian, but also firsthand familiarity with the Oval Office and the mechanisms of presidential power.”

A former speechwriter and senior advisor to President Bill Clinton, Widmer is assistant for special projects to the president of Brown University and has been a senior advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. From 2001 to 2006, he was the inaugural director of the C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College. His previous books include Martin Van Buren (2005), Campaigns: A Century of Presidential Races (with Alan Brinkley, 2001), Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City (1999) and Ark of the Liberties: Why American Freedom Matters to the World (2008). He has also edited two volumes of American Speeches: Political Oratory from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton published by the Library of America (2006). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The New York Observer and The American Scholar.

The talk is co-sponsored by Washington College’s Department of Political Science and the American Studies program and is free and open to the public.



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