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tv   The Letters of John F. Kennedy  CSPAN  December 16, 2013 6:45am-8:01am EST

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i titled the next section a world in crisis. i titled the final section, that was the most creative title, i called it a triumph of will. i just got interviewed on the
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radio and the newspaper before gadget and it has been the same questions the bbc asked me yesterday and cbs last week, what surprises are there? will be talking about that, i'm sure, as we go alone. if he ever gets a word in. [laughter] >> did you guys package dinner collects. [laughter] >> anyway, i didn't find any of the letters from maryland same it was great last night. i did not find it. [laughter] although i did find letters with his affair with a married woman who was a friend of adolf hitler's and j. edgar hoover was about to nail him for. house that? but i did not set out and he did not write a sensational book. the surprises are incredibly enough, you know? one of the things that surprised me is that if you read the letters, if you take him seriously, if you take it seriously, you all know that he had back problems and they were made worse with pt one '09
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experience, and he writes to the catholic church given to him at least three different times. but what is not as well known, he writes a letter when he said 35 saying to one of his friends, the dr. satel but i won't live past 45. so i better make the best of it. he had addison's disease and he had it so badly that it is really problematic whether he would've lived through a second term. it was a surprise to me to see this kind of documentation. and it's wonderful when you find. and it's great. if you don't go looking for it. i don't know what's being held back in the kennedy papers. i have no idea what we haven't seen but what we do find, what i was able to find.
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>> he was groomed for this as literally were all of his siblings, by his father from his moviemaking days in hollywood. yet the right that above all president kennedy was a reader and a writer. could you expand on the? >> first of all, he could read 1200 words a minute. he really good. he was brilliant. he truly was brilliant. the reviews, i keep all of my great reviews tattooed to my arms and my just. [laughter] and the early reviews are wonderful. the one negative thing that somebody from the bbc told me about, he said don't worry about it, the guy wrote 400 great things and there was one probably -- one minor point. he said you're probably too complimentary attendee.
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i said i plead guilty. it's hard to go to all these letters and to see how this man conspired young people, how he inspired our age people, how he inspired the world. how he operated in pain every single day of his life and never let it affect his presidency negatively. how he sat there with the world blowing up in nine different ways and stayed with it. i mean, there's only one person in the whole world who can write better than me about kennedy, and that was william manchester. william manchester was his friend and william manchester would probably the most articulate of any kennedy writer, and he just said very simply. he said that his death was a tragedy that his life was a triumph. so it's very hard -- now, kennedy was lucky, too. i'm not the only lucky person. if he had lived and there was no unspoken, unwritten law amongst
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the reporters that we don't report on the private life of the president, they'd have crucified him. he made bill clinton look like a choir boy. he really did. but there is no evidence in those letters. and there's certainly no evidence in what got reported. they knew. i mean, you know -- [inaudible] >> i don't even think and to get question, which was, i'll come back to it, he was movie star. he was movie star handsome. i remember as a young man playing baseball in milford massachusetts and taking to the field. i looked at him and said can be as handsomest man i've ever met or seen. by me, he was movie star handsome. the best of all, i talk to sony people during the book and this one woman told me, anyway she told me that she went to an early rally where there was jack
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and teddy and bobby, and she looked up, and she looked up and she turned to her mother and said all those teeth, all that hair. [laughter] so, but you had to be there. and kill kennedy, presidents were afraid of press conferences. they were afraid of candid photography. you see very little candid photographs -- forget millard fillmore and those guys. harry truman, and all had to be arranged impose. not kennedy. man, he loved it. and with television he found his medium. the press conferences were -- they were works of art. how many press conferences in our modern-day presidents have? they avoid them like the plague because they're going to be asked -- kennedy had more press conferences in his first year than all but 10 presidents he for him, and the hottest ticket
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in town was to get in there and see a press conference. they lined up along the street trying to get them. he used that to his advantage. >> moving right along. >> yes. >> from our vantage .50 years on and -- 50 years on, the success -- significant exchange of letters in terms, a mighty violation of it was really between the president and premier khrushchev of the soviet union, particularly in terms of the limited nuclear test ban treaty and the cuban missile crisis. can you give us a sense of what the timeless like? and more important, how those two got along and how they each in different ways managed their staffs? >> that may be the most important -- your questions are terrific. we never met before this.
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if there ever was a verification of what my thesis for this book was, meaning you can tell more from the letters than anything else, it's a khrushchev kennedy letters. it's very, very interesting. one of the great surprises was that i'm old enough and are other people who are old enough to remember that their impression, the impression of khrushchev was a guy who sat at the u.n., took off his shoe and banged the table. khrushchev and kennedy -- well, they really brutalized each other in some of these letters. they really state their anti-reputation in the future on winning over each other. they were both determined that their people's way of life would win. and yet, you know, khrushchev starts the let off to kennedy and says, i am on the shore of
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the black sea. when the right in the press that khrushchev is resting on the black sea, it may be said that this is cracked and at the same time incorrect. this is indeed a wonderful place. he goes on to say it's correct because it's such a wonderful place and time relaxing but i'm not relaxing. i can't get but we have to go through out of my daily, minute by life. kennedy writes back in a letter that i've lost -- do mr. chairman, i regret that the vincent made it impossible for me to reply earlier. i have brought you live here with me to cape cod for a weekend in which i can devote all the time necessary to give it the answer it deserves. my family has had a home you're overlooking the atlantic for many years. my father and brothers owned homes in my own come, children always have a large group of cousins for company so this is an ideal place. now, that's how they introduce -- then they get into it. let me just i do this. you can do more and more
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accurately about that incredible period of the cuban missile crisis when the world came this close, this close. get the book and when you get the book you can see kennedy's letters asking some of his relatives, have you built a bomb shelter yet? asking james galbraith to look at the government brochures and critique whether or not these are the right kind of instructions for bomb shelters. you can tell more from these letters, because what happens is that early, early on, almost right after kennedy be shown the pictures of the missiles in cuba, he and khrushchev made a secret agreement. they will write to each other everyday and tell either this is resolved or the world blows up. used that language almost. they will write these letters. they would tell each other what each others think, what each of explaining, what they think the other is planning, and they will
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do it in secret and they will put them in secret diplomatic pouches and they will be delivered through the embassies, and not one member of the press will ever see them. so they won't make them -- they won't screw it up until not blow it out of proportion. i'm a historian. there were times when i wrote about the declaration of independence or the constitution. the united states constitution would still be written, been written if they had let the press in to see. that was one of the first things that jefferson and the boys did, keep the damn press out of here. sorry. [laughter] keep the damn press out of here. all they're going to do is make mountains out of mole hills or molehills out of bounds. we know what we're trying to do, and that's what they did. the other thing is, adversities use really hurt him because khrushchev -- at first his use
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really hurt him. that's why khrushchev thought he could get away -- talk about should spot, putting missiles 90 miles away from florida? but he had so brutalize kennedy, felt kennedy was such a weakling, he figured well, he learned a different kennedy through the letters. he learned there was a different kennedy. by kennedy also was wise enough that when you're coming down to maybe -- i guess was that dean rusk, somebody said the other fella just blinked, you know? when kennedy saw him start to blink, he knew something at a young age. okay, i'm a windows. give him space to say this space. he said -- he said his own people to report back to them. he knew khrushchev was going to ask that kennedy remove the missiles in turkey. those were important missiles. he was prepared to give them up in a minute because it was a
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trade off. but the most important thing, it's through those letters that you see it. and i don't understand why i've been hobnobbing with the bbc over this but the last couple of days, and they ran my initial interview, my initial brilliant interview -- [laughter] the other sad thing is i really believe this. [laughter] they ran the initial interview and then like three other divisions of the bbc got all taken up with one aspect of it. they asked me about a letter that kennedy writes to cruise to which kennedy is thanking them for the gift of pushing to. and what he says in the letter is i thank you so much. i am so pleased that pushinka had an issue to appear that her mother did original. her mother was on the first space vehicle that the russians put up. somehow the british public is going to fall in love with that, the damn dog.
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[laughter] so anyway, so you never know what's going to resonate. hit a document all these learned, important letters, and they're focusing on the dog. maybe that's why we won -- >> popular culture. one of the exchanges during jfk's campaign for the presidency, which i found intriguing, was with fdr's widow, alan r. she at the time topped all polls in america as the most influential woman. she additionally had a widely syndicated column, newspaper column and she posited in one of those that his father, the ambassador, was quoted as saying he would quote spain any amount of money closed quote to ensure that his son became the first roman catholic president. he challenged her, but he did so gingerly. much you reveal was done in that case with letters rather than a
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meeting or phone call. >> absolutely. >> and the difference can be -- >> these are great questions. they really, truly are. that probably was the most intriguing exchange of letters in the whole book because there's about 20 of them. and what happens is that she actually went on national television program, collegiate something or other, and she blatantly said i've had information that joseph can be seen as attempting to buy this election. you have to understand that she was such a support of adlai stevenson. she so wanted him to win. she thought kennedy was much too young. so did harry truman. so did a lot of people. and, in fact, in this exchange she often opens up by saying my dear boy. it's an incredible, incredible exchange of letters because you
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see she won't back down. she's not just the most influential woman in america. she's the most powerful woman in the world, eleanor roosevelt. a knows he's not going to get her to stand up and say -- this all takes place when he's a senator and and 58 and 59 and when he's about to run for president. noc would not get her to stand up. but he can't afford, he simply can't afford to have for a post and a certainly can have republicans say his dad is trying to buy the presidency. and so they go back and forth and she gives him a little. he won't give them. and so in the end she doesn't -- close our retraction as possible can which is amazing. but during this time, i couldn't get into the book except brilliantly introducing it in my writing, but during this time the press picks this up because
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it's eleanor. so now the rumor really spreads that joe kidd is trying to buy this election. kennedy then gets a gig, it's the most important deed he's had so far as a young senator your key is asked to give a major talk at the national press club. that's big news in those days. big news. big event. so he steps up, and kennedy knows what is going to get a knows he's prepared to do it. i know which are going to ask you, go ahead. the first question comes up, is your father -- it's very interesting you ask. is at the podium so they can see what's on election. takes out a blank piece of paper, put it on the lectern and says it's interesting you ask that because i just got a telegram from my dad this morning that you might be interested in. can i read? yes. it says, dear joan, i will be very happy to buy you the presidential election.
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but i will be day and if i'll pay for a landslide. [laughter] you know, it's kennedy. it's john kennedy. the one over a lot. but this exchange of letters was -- that's the exchange of letters that sold the book to the publisher. i knew i was going to be able to sell. the book is going to do well unsure. the reviews are terrific. i hate to say anything else but it's not my writing. i wrote the introduction and all that but it's the topic can you imagine? no one has ever done that, you know, and among all these you picked out the right one, the exchange with eleanor. it's interesting also how he
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wins her over and then the last letter he gets from her which is later in the book, he writes thanking her for nominating him for a nobel prize. so they come a full circle. >> one of the real jewels within marty's book is correspondence between the president and youngsters. one i particularly enjoyed was a letter from a sixth grader in salem, oregon, about -- let me finish the question. [laughter] about a straw poll which was taken in his classroom, and then the appointment by his teacher, campaign manager. would you tell us about that? >> i thought you would never ask. i thought i was giving a speech instead of this, as i wrote out an outline. everything is going to discuss, you've got them all down there. >> no collusion. >> and we have never met each other.
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>> no, we haven't. >> when he was running and 58, he starts in 58. there are so many letters, and, of course, as i said, there are also letters that are so perceptive and amazing. but one of the letters -- i'll get to it. one of the letters from after he gets all these letters about why we want you for president and all that, i could not find a letter that this kid sent but i found the letter he sent to this kid thanking this youngster. dear murray, i want to thank you so much and pre-shoot so much for the courage he showed last week when your class dismissed the whole class to go down to the auditorium and watch mr. nixon on television, and you refused to go. [laughter] >> campaign manager spent walter writes a letter and says there mr. president, i just want you
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to know what i've been doing. we took a boat, a preliminary vote and my class of all the candidates and here's how it came out. stephenson, two boats. humphrey, one vote. kennedy one vote. nixon for votes, blah, blah, blah. i was not happy with that and i asked for a revote. meanwhile, i did some campaigning. here's how it came out now. kennedy, 14, nixon 13, everybody else zero. i then decided that wasn't enough. we should have a runoff between nixon and kennedy. this is how it came out. kennedy 24, nixon 20. i'm making up -- i just want you to know it's a joy to be your campaign manager. [laughter] and kennedy writes back, he just wrote back thanking him saying you have no idea what a comfort iit is for me to have a campaign manager in indiana like you. [laughter] >> while jfk did not live to see
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the lunar landing, he did send that seemingly impossible goal in motion and he did see john glenn's orbital flight. what letters struck you about the space program? >> there are about three or four that are really incredible. one, i never realized it until i did the research and found letters. it was hard enough for a man who is president knowing he didn't have a rocket that could go as far as falls river to say that by the end of the decade we're going to be on the moon. holy smokes. but when they got going, when they started, there's a long exchange. in the liber there are dozens and dozens of letters between kennedy and jim webb. james webb, the head of nasa. and several of the letters, kennedy starts pushing jim webb,
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can we possibly get on them by 67? the hell with 69. no, get on there by 67. and jim webb is telling kennedy we probably could do if we get rid of this program, science, science instruction. and webb is pushing that when kennedy goes out to give speeches on the space program, talk about the scientific knowledge that's going to be gained. talk about all of the things are going to learn about the world and the universe and how that will be applied. he goes on and on and on and this is actually a video clip in the kennedy library in boston. finally, kennedy looks at him and says, alan, are you ever going to get it through your head? i don't give a damn about science. i just want to beat the russians last night and that's what he wanted. that's what that whole program
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-- the whole program was about. it's revealed in the letter which is wonderful. it's really revealed in a letter. there's also a letter from him to lyndon johnson to which he appoints johnson to the day by day operations. he was really on top. he staked his reputation on it. how the hell he ever thought -- >> that deployment also means we have mission control in houston. >> that's right. spent if i may move to another topic, thank you. while you include correspondence with many of the usual stalwarts of the civil rights era, two were striking to me. one was jackie robinson, and the other was josephine baker. the one is a colorful entertaining dancer and singer, and the other of course was the
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icon who broke the color barrier in major league baseball. with a defective lobbyists? >> yes, they were. what is revealed through history is the fact that kennedy is a political animal. the man is president of the united states. he's got to run again in 1964. he's not all -- all the polls showing him doing very well, it's still no certainty. that's what he goes to dallas. he is so concerned that -- all of his advisers say stay out, not takes out the. adlai stevenson just got stood on last month. do not go. he did not want to take the risk that he would not win texas in the next election. he needed those electoral votes. he knows -- he's walking a
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tightrope on civil rights. in his heart, of course he bleeds for the african-american. and on the other hand he starts taking big positive standings he will lose the south and he can't afford. the letters that come in from philip randolph, james farmer, from lewis, from all these black leaders, we will be damned if we will wait. city in hyannis port and telling us to wait while our kids are getting blown up. he waits and he waits and waits. he does a couple of very intelligent things when martin luther king gets jail. he calls a ready king and offers sympathy. doesn't do anything about it but that alone, he gets lots and lots of black votes. but then he gets to the point where it goes beyond his comprehension, and the letters showed. when george wallace is standing
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in the doorway and he's defining the law of the land, and russ -- ross barnett and that letter is even more revealing than any correspondent. ross barnett in mississippi with james made it is standing in the doorway saying you would not commit because you are black, something snaps in kennedy. he writes a hastily proposal. he goes on television in front of the entire american people and he tells them he will send through congress the most wide sweeping civil rights legislation there ever was. and martin luther king who have been attacking him said that's the most important address this country has ever had. kennedy finishes the address in terms to one of his aides and says, will b you please avoid sometimes we do something that's so important it takes is so damn long to do it and we know it's right? the direct answer to your
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question, jackie robinson became a very important. there's one letter in which he says he criticizes kennedy for what he thinks is kowtowing to the southern delegates. guess what? is. because he wants their states votes. but there is a letter, the last letter i think, one of the last letters i use in the civil rights section in which jackie robinson writes the kennedy a day after medgar evers is shot down in front of his wife and kids in his own driveway. i won't even try to paraphrase it. it's so poignant. and he ended by saying are you going to stop protecting dr. king? d. think he won't get it if you don't protect them? talk about prophecy. but again you can get that. i couldn't write that brilliantly as i write, irresistibly as i write. i couldn't write that and have the same effect as having medgar
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evers say that to him. i think that's the important thing. >> you write that jfk had driving energy, or in his language vigor, along with courage as the two qualities he most admired. yet you think and say that it is unwavering sense of duty which really most defines him. what letters speak to that? >> in our letters where he asks, he writes like 10 letters begging to get sent to the south pacific. there's an ulterior thing there, too. but baking. he has as i said carter, he has an incredible sense of his place in history. i started to say before, i'll do this, as a historian i love the
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what-if question. what if the civil war was won by the south? you know, when i wrote the book, the resolute common i couldn't keep writing without thinking all the time, these are these guys for 35 years they are looking for john franklin, the world's greatest explorer who had gone missing and they can't find a trace for him in the arctic. i had to say to myself, what if they had gps? what if they had a cell phone? they had gps, turn it on, that obnoxious woman comes on and says, take a left at the walrus, i write at the iceberg, there he is. or they get on a cell phone and they say john, where the hell are you after 33 years? to get serious. what if kennedy had lived? what would he have done? who did i talk to? some political story and knows a hell of a lot more than i do. said, marty, there's no greater political question, historical
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question out their remaining in the world, ever, and what we could have done. that's as far as i could get. but what would've happened? what if, what if he hadn't gone to dallas? what if a lot of things. so that i love the letters that raise questions as well as answers. but, you know, every one of those reviewers who questioned me, i did a thing for cbs sunday morning, and the woman, as intelligent as an informed as brilliant, and you know, she was raising the same kind of questions, you know, what is in their, what ministries are
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there? and it drives you crazy but it's also the joy. >> i have a couple more questions and we will turn it over to you guys and the microphones. so begin to formulate your questions if you would. leonard lyons who is a columnist for the "new york post" wrote a letter to the president which he quoted the price of president autographs and it's a wonderful sequence that shows ended his cleverness and his which. would you share that experience of? >> again, you pick the best example perhaps of the exchange of letters. he knew lyons and lyons was a writer of the near post, columnist, probably the most popular columnist. columnist. he writes on the ss do check, i was walking by an autograph shop on fifth avenue and george washington's autograph is going for this, and abraham lincoln's
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is going for this, and your autograph is going for this. and so tended he writes back to him, and lyons makes a suggestion. why don't you stop shiny stuff so the price of your autograph will go up? kennedy writes back to him like a straight long letter and that the and he says, give my regards to your wife and two children, you'll notice i haven't signed this. i hope the damn thing goes a. and it goes on like that. and it just keeps going back and forth. [laughter] so that he took every opportunity and. and i'm sure it was such an incredible -- are you going to ask me anything about harold macmillan? why don't you tell something about the premise of great britain? >> the reason i'm saying that is there were some relationships that formed during the kennedy presidency that brings it to mind.
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kennedy found not only in england, but particularly in harold macmillan, a father figure, a true father figure. and he also found his greatest ally. kennedy's greatest greatest desire, careerwise, was to get a nuclear test ban treaty. when you read the letters, i never would have believed this until i saw this. i always would have thought saving the world from nuclear holocaust is bad. but he really believed getting a definitive test ban treaty was the greatest triumph of all. and it was with the help of harold macmillan, and the relationship when you look at all these letters, and i use quite a bit of them, i want the book to sell but also the british addition to sell. when you look at all these letters, about halfway through, the only time this happened in his presence he isn't saying
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dear prime minister or your premise to. he says dear friend. a terrific bond, very warm. the other thing that's interesting, i didn't realize, it's almost impossible to get anybody no matter who they were or who they are named an honorary president, honorary citizen of the united states. they did it for lafayette for good reason. and activity goes on a crusade to get winston churchill named an honorary citizen. it has to be approved by congress. we know how easy that is. it has to get approved by the supreme court. it has to go through all this kind of stuff. he stayed with it. and the exchange of letters between him and -- on his worst
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that can churchill can write better than any of us. i've got to tell you the exchange of letters between churchill and him, churchill expresses his gratitude and it finally happens in a way that i've never ever let anyone express gratitude. so there are some very warm exchanges along with some pretty tough stuff. >> you refer to harold macmillan, some of your books have been subtitled through the lens. to talk to me about how you selected the photographs which accompany the letters in your book. >> through the lens of series was based on, i did a book on lincoln through the lens because the thesis was lincoln was among the first generation of human beings ever to be photographed. and the photographs tell you
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more about words because he learned how to use them to his advantage. then i did kennedy through the lens as a young adult because of the great peril. this is not the kind of book. we did want to have portfolios of photographs. what we tried to do is just have them go the way the book does. just have almost every topic have at least one, and there's a very surprising series of letters between kennedy and david, not only for premier official but the founder of israel. in which they are very angry letters. kennedy is saying, i'm killing myself trying to get the nuclear test ban treaty. i fully -- i even got charles de gaulle on board and you keep testing. you've got to stop.
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is easy for you to say sitting in hyannis port. i'm sitting with arabs all around and join me to give up nuclear testing. and kennedy threatened him in such a way that he resigns. i want to you the iphone articles not in any crackpot publication, but in very sophisticated publications saying forget lyndon johnson, forget the cia, forget fidel castro. we have a few little bombshells we throw in. not proven. >> i hear you. okay. your turn, place. questions for marty. please approach the microphone there. >> you're going to be on c-span. anybody? here comes somebody. once we get a couple of brave souls breaking the ice. i'm sorry you have to do this but that so they can pick it up.
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>> welcome back. thank you. such a joy, thank you. >> thanthank you very much. >> where were you on november 22, 1963? >> first of all, i wasn't born. [laughter] i was the headmaster of the worst private school in new england. made in the united states. they brought me in to save the schools in vermont. i didn't say that but i stayed to your liking it. this was a school that a member of the united states olympic ski team and an olympic skier founded. he knew this much about education but if you get if you took all of these kids that the courts had ruled out of their states because they were such troublemakers. remember the book mommy dearest? i have the to crawford girls. [laughter] anyway, and they were two of the nicest ones. anyway, all of the sudden here
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comes, i get 96 and hysterical teenagers. hysterical. and i've got them all in the auditorium and i'm trying -- the tears are coming down my eyes. this will surprise you. i played a lot of professional sports. i never ever -- i got into fights but that was in sports. i have never hit another human being except that day. everybody there were all in tears and it was getting worse and worse. they were crying and we are getting laughter from the back of the room. i had a teacher from the netherlands who felt we're all being so silly getting this emotional. i went up and i told him to stop and he wouldn't so i clocked him. [laughter] in my professional manner. [applause] you know, it's really interesting. we all remember, those of us who were there, we all remember. we remember when man landed on
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the moon, and wish her and her remember 9/11, when we were on 9/11. for all these different events and they define us. that's a great question spent we at the museum will be leading the commemoration on the 22nd of that sad, sad anniversary. other questions, please. >> the back channel aspect from the letters between khrushchev and kennedy always fascinated me. this summer, the hyannis museum was hosted at the home of jfk and jackie at hyannis port, and bobby kennedy kind of regalis in stories of the present writing those letters while he was in hyannis port, and going back and forth with the president. is that really well known, the back channel, correspondence? i had never heard of it before. >> i hadn't either. >> i was impressed, bobby was
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really enthralled with the process as a teenager at the time, and the secrecy of it all. so i wondered speed is how wonderful at that age. the letters don't reveal where he is writing most of them and that's what i picked up that letter where he specifically talks -- he specifically rights to khrushchev, i'm here. there are other letters where he writes to khrushchev. it's crazy, they get this warm fuzzy and then in the next letter they say we're going to bury you. but khrushchev thing is amazing to me. for example, in all of those letters, i had to do an enormous editing job on the kennedy khrushchev letters. not just cuban missile crisis but berlin and all the way down the line. many of them are 35 pages long. many of them are 40 pages long. so in order to get the gist in there and not for the reader -- not bore the reader, of all the
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letters between kennedy and khrushchev, and boy, i read them all, the greatest line, the most telling line, the most memorable line is the one in which one of them says to the other, this is during the cuban missile crisis, if we don't solve this, and if we don't solve it now, the lady will envy the dead -- the living will envy the dead. that's 1980. it's khrushchev. so there are so many surprises. but that's a very good point. and no, i don't know where khrushchev was writing the letters from. it amazes you to think that -- when you have the cuban missile crisis you better pay attention to it or we may all die. and the rest of the three and half years that kennedy is there, and he's dealing with so many things. forget the ceremonial things. that are letters -- every once and while i through a letter inches to show you what the
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scope of what this guy -- like a letter from the guy in florida tried to sell kennedy and a state which would be a perfect place to retire to, and i'll give you a break because you're the president of the united states, you know? [laughter] exactly. but that's a very good point. of course, they never stopped working. they just never did. i use a quote and water by introductions where kennedy said, thank god it's kennedy, he is so quotable. when he said he took his office, when he was sworn in he had no idea, he said, the scope of the burden, the magnitude of the burdens he faced. and yet he finds time to write these letters. not just trying to put out the fire but every imaginable time.
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and then there's the ones you might expect. don't want to break your heart. the are all these others like it but it becomes a form letter after he writes the first one but all of the families of the men who went down with the thresher or the one started getting killed, his advisers in vietnam. >> do you have a question? >> my name is bill and i'm from newark, delaware, and that just happened to be passing by and i'm really glad it is i am glad you were here. what a refreshing -- from these bozos. [laughter] spent what i wanted to ask you is, in my travels i've been to different parts of the world, and i don't know of a president who has had such a tremendous global impact on the whole populations of people and who,
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tying on to the first question, associated his loss as much as we did when it happened. >> that's a lovely comment. yes, there has never been a president that has been so respected because he inspired everybody. and i have the exchange of letters in the book. kennedy made it. willie brand, the mayor of berlin, and kennedy, it's a wonderful progression of things. when kennedy was determined, and he made it clear that unless there was a colossal catastrophe he wasn't going to plunge the world into war. over berlin. he just wasn't going to do. cuban missile in something else. and now the berlin wall. and willy brandt writes in the letter i just going to sit there? are you going to let us be
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divided like this? are you going to let our freedom be taken? kennedy writes a very brilliant albeit wishy-washy noncommittal letter in which he is telling him that we will increase the troops, we will go into deeper negotiations, blah, blah, blah. but we ain't going to war, very clear. willy brandt is not amused, and then kennedy goes to berlin and he stands there and it may be as greatest speech of all. there is no way to measure the impact of that speech around the world. kennedy -- no way to measure the impact on them. he finishes his speech, he turns to bobby and he says, we would never have a better day in our lives than this one. you know? thank god, the microphones pick it up. that's a great question, thank you. what both cbs and the bbc, i'm
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sure our friends at c-span would add, is his anti, is he still regarded that way? polls are polls but man, do i read polls, and every poll i read right up until a week ago, top five, top three presidents of the united states steel john f. kennedy. >> another question, please. >> just an observation, but kennedy from all that you said and everything i've read, he really was a man standing for peace and a military man, and he takes over from eisenhower. eisenhower in one of his last speeches he warns everybody about beware of the military industrial complex. what is your take -- i mean, eisenhower seems to be giving it as his last speech and kennedy taking up his mantle for peace, to military heroes. where they in conversation?
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it's just the evidence about peace. >> thank you. there's a lot of letters in the book between the president. presidents have always written. most of the letters, one of the greatest things about our democracy and we find a lot of things wrong, one of the greatest things is a piece with the torch gets past. that still startles a lot of people. people were startled when kennedy was killed and johnson took over and it went so peacefully in the midst of this incredible violence. that's one of the things that we can indeed be the proudest up. the earliest letter between kennedy and eisenhower in the book is one in which -- it may have been the first letter, a survey among the first letters that kennedy wrote when he wrote to eisenhower and thank him for making the transition to it was one of the smoothest transitions. these guys do not see eye to eye
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certainly on berlin and so forth, but, you know, i have to play the story just for a minute. you're talking about two men who were great men in our history, and we historians judged -- we always ask the same question. do you judge the man -- what's more important? the man for his time? does the man make the time or does the time make the main? if a guy lives in a time, if he the president of the country, president of the united states during a time when nothing is going on to challenge them, can he be great? so i put it to you. is millard fillmore had been president of the united states during the civil war, would we be going to the military more memorial in washington? would we be going to the millard fillmore tunnel, i don't know. one of the things of course, he was charitable than any other president and he stood up.
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he met the challenge. a lot of people still criticize but he met the challenge. franklin roosevelt, the republicans hated him. batman in the white house. nobody -- another man with a golden spoon. he met the challenges. he stood up to them. an unlikely man to say to this -- to save this country from poverty. eisenhower has always been an enigma to me because eisenhower, i have a feeling that if eisenhower had eight years of incredible time -- just as nobody expected harry truman to stand up. they don't mind if they have breakfast. [laughter] one of the things i find fascinating in the book is that kennedy gets a letter from one
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of his top advisers who was arthur schlesinger senior -- junior, excusing. arthur schlesinger seniors father, the great professor of history at harvard rights to him and says he is about to launch a project in which is going to ask learned people all over the country to rank the 10 greatest presidents. would you, mr. president, please, i know how busy you are but would you? kennedy writes back and said, i thought of your letter a lot and he said it's not a question of time. he says, but if you asked me that a year or two years before i became president i would have answered you in 20 minutes. but now that i see what it takes, give me a couple of years. that's one of the first things i will do when i get out. it's a very revealing thing. thank you. >> another question? >> hello. be careful, she's our reporter.
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[laughter] spent as a journalist, i always have another question. this isn't a simple one. it's about process. i was just thinking about all those letters between khrushchev and kennedy, were they all written by hand or were some of them -- >> they were typed. when you buy this remarkable book, you will see that what we have included are illustrations of some of the handwritten letters. one of the great ones is from harry truman in which he is writing to praise early on to praise kennedy. it looks like the republican rats are at it again. he said what i am noticing, what i hope you notice is that i get a lot of praise for giving them hell so you do the same damn thing, give them hell. that's handwritten so his lovely. that letter from walter in which is talking about -- that's all handwritten, wonderful. want a most interesting things, and i didn't do this, my publisher did, we have one of
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the letters from kennedy from christian to kennedy in russian. and then the translation on the next page your so it's a good question, thank you. i love the handwritten ones. we printed out the handwritten. first of all, you couldn't take 20 pages, secondly, it's very hard to do. >> another question spinning it's maybe a good thing to wrap it up, just to get your impressions. this year we send letters to jackie, the document of the would be out this month on the discovery channel. and your book on the letters of jfk, and one of the archivists from the jfk presidential library in boston commented to us in one of our visits year that the difference in the presidency and the correspondence over the years has changed so much in debt in
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the future there will be so many fewer letters for historians to look at. and i wondered if you could just kind of talk about the impact of that in the future and how much of what's being written today is actually going to be resurrected? >> it's a lost. that's all i can say, it's a loss because you're not going to have a president down the rhine -- down the line writing 40 pages. a skype. anand by the time that our grandkids are going, they will talk into the watch and you'll have a meeting instantly. who knows what it's going to be? what we can say for sure is you don't get an e-mail what's in these letters. and you don't get on twitter what's in there. plus i've written several -- i wrote three or four history books about this. we went to digital we lost a
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lot. it made it a lot easier but the great -- they don't say i'll take 600 pictures and maybe one will be great. they concentrate on getting a truly great picture. same thing through -- i never thought. brilliant. >> once again spend it never ends. [laughter] >> several things in conclusion. firstly, thank you very much for joining us this evening. thanks to our viewers on c-span or for those of you at the museum, copies of the book are available for purchase and autograph is provided by our friends, they are in that direction. marty, thank yo thank you very . >> thank you. [applause]
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>> [inaudible conversations] >> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with booktv guests and viewers. watch videos and get up-to-date information on events. >> here's a look at some books published in 2013. booktv 15 fear on c-span2.
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the world is so overwhelmingly run by men. >> i'm shocked. >> i'm not sure how well that's going. [applause] >> good luck in washington. >> women have made great progress from the generation, but is still true that men run every industry and every government and every country in the world. and that means that when the decisions are made the most impact our world, women's voices are not equally heard and that's true in the corporate boardroom, it's just a pta meeting, it struck the town hall. so i tried to address the issue of women to talk openly about the stagnation women are facing
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at the top and to give just practical advice to both women and men who want to do their part to change that spent other books published in 2013 include the billion or apprentice. visit the to watch programs from the last 15 years, and continue watching booktv all weekend long for more nonfiction authors and books. >> what's going on today comes down to two words, and they are not my keywords. on the mental transformation. those are obama's works. and i asked a couple of questions but when you look at the constitution and the power of the president, as the president have the power to fundamentally transform america? of course not. and why would you want to fundamentally transform america?
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that means you don't like america very much, do you? that means you don't like capitalism and private property rights. that and you don't like our constitutional system very much. when you keep doing this fundamental transformation, change is hard, we need more time for change, you need to understand this is a direct attack on our constitutional system. that's what he's talking about. that's what he means. >> sunday january 5, best selling author, lawyer, reagan administration official and radio personality mark levin will take your calls and questions life for three hours starting at noon eastern. booktv's "in depth," the first sunday of every month on c-span2. and online for december is a booktv bookclub we want to know what your favorite books were in 2013. throughout the month joint other readers who discuss the notable books published this year. go to and click on bookclub to enter the chat room.
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