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Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History by…
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Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History

by Ted Sorensen

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I liked this book, mostly for the sections about The Cuban Missile Crisis and his explanation of his involvement in writing Profiles In Courage (didn't ghost write it, just wrote the first drafts). I didn't love it though and wouldn't recommend it to a friend which is usually my yardstick as to a 'good' book. It is clear throughout the book that JFK is/was the only person Sorensen ever thought as an intellectual equal (if not more). Although always subordinate to 'Mr. President' it is clear that JFK was Sorensen's best friend (but maybe not vice versa). Something I found annoying was the way Sorensen seemed to consistently infer that he was always the 'difference' when things went right or if they went bad (when he wasn't involved, i.e., Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, and the CIA). ( )
  Charlie-Ravioli | Jan 18, 2016 |
Authored by the man responsible for having such a hand in collaborating and writing speeches with and for John Kennedy, Sorensen's gift at prose is never lacking in his recollections at what it was like to work alongside JFK for 10 years, in addition to providing some background on himself, how he came to be Kennedy's speech writer, and what life was like during the years he spent with Kennedy in the White House.
  timmydc | Oct 26, 2014 |
A beautifully written memoir by JFK's speechwriter and advisor whose liberal Unitarian values helped shape history, most dramatically during the Cuban Missile Crisis. ( )
  GlenyssT | Jun 18, 2011 |
Ted Sorensen, often thought to be the most influential presidential speechwriter of all time due to his indispensability to John F. Kennedy, writes his first full memoir in "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History" (2008) -- though some note autobiographical elements in his early reminiscences of the Kennedy administration in his 1965 book, "Kennedy." Although the book covers Sorensen's full life, it focuses mostly on his decade-plus association with Kennedy.

With the flavor of a transcribed oral history -- which it probably is, due to the limitations imposed on Sorensen by a stroke late in his life -- Sorensen breezily relates much of his life, from his boyhood in Nebraska to his later years in New York City. Unlike many memoirs, it offers a refreshing amount of candor, including personal details of shortcomings and misconceptions, culminating in a brief chapter on Sorensen's failed nomination to head the CIA under then-incoming president Jimmy Carter.

Unlike other autobiographies, except possibly for those written by people with more famous spouses, the shadow of another life looms larger in these pages than the subject. Partially, this is because Sorensen's career is so closely allied with Kennedy's career -- their collaboration from Kennedy's Senate years, through the 1960 presidential campaign, and into the White House. Mostly, though, it is because the loyalty that Kennedy obviously prized in Sorensen has never faded and the affection that Sorensen felt for his boss is still explicit 40 years after Kennedy's assassination.

This leads to an odd overtone. In places where Sorensen feels obliged to explain or defend something in the past, it is almost always a defense of Kennedy's reputation, even at the expense of his own. In this book, Sorensen admits to playing a role in writing Kennedy's award-winning book "Profiles in Courage," but he defers authorship to Kennedy. Sorensen admits to offering candid advice, but he defers all decisions to Kennedy.

Even as he built on his experience to become a legal consultant to leaders around the world, Sorensen downplays his capability and judgment (though his discretion with regards to these later years is apparent). In some ways, the tone of the book could be an echo of Lou Gehrig's great speech at the end of the 1942 film "The Pride of the Yankees": "Today I consider myself the luckiest man in the world."

There is much to appreciate in "Counselor." Even though the mostly chronological text has frequent leaps and omissions, Sorensen's account is appealing, with the flavor of a free-wheeling, if extended, dinnertime storytelling session. The narrative style is consistently pleasant to read. And, again, the echoes of Camelot ring, if in slightly muted fashion, harkening to another era. ( )
2 vote ALincolnNut | Apr 11, 2011 |
A prominent international lawyer and former advisor to JFK recounts their conversations during some of the most decisive moments of the thirty-fifth president's career, including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the writing of "Profiles in Courage." ( )
  vsandham | Dec 15, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060798718, Hardcover)

In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.

Sorensen returns to January 1953, when he and the freshman senator from Massachusetts began their extraordinary professional and personal relationship. Rising from legislative assistant to speechwriter and advisor, the young lawyer from Nebraska worked closely with JFK on his most important speeches, as well as his book Profiles in Courage. Sorensen encouraged the junior senator's political ambitions—from a failed bid for the vice presidential nomination in 1956 to the successful presidential campaign in 1960, after which he was named Special Counsel to the President.

Sorensen describes in thrilling detail his experience advising JFK during some of the most crucial days of his presidency, from the decision to go to the moon to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when JFK requested that the thirty-four-year-old Sorensen draft the key letter to Khrushchev at the most critical point of the world's first nuclear confrontation. After Kennedy was assassinated, Sorensen stayed with President Johnson for a few months before leaving to write a biography of JFK. In 1968 he returned to Washington to help run Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Through it all, Sorensen never lost sight of the ideals that brought him to Washington and to the White House, working tirelessly to promote and defend free, peaceful societies.

Illuminating, revelatory, and utterly compelling, Counselor is the brilliant, long-awaited memoir from the remarkable man who shaped the presidency and the legacy of one of the greatest leaders America has ever known.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:19 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.... from the decision to go to the moon to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when JFK requested that the thirty-four-year-old Sorensen draft the key letter to Khrushchev at the most critical point of the world's first nuclear confrontation. After Kennedy was assassinated, Sorensen stayed with President Johnson for a few months before leaving to write a biography of JFK. In 1968 he returned to Washington to help run Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Through it all, Sorensen never lost sight of the ideals that brought him to Washington and to the White House, working tirelessly to promote and defend free, peaceful societies.--From publisher's description.… (more)

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