Tofel (Vanishing Point, 2004, etc.) concludes that JFK aide and speechwriter Theodore C. Sorenson was the principal author of the 1961 inaugural address.
Even though Sorenson publicly refuses the attribution, he did grant Tofel, former assistant publisher of the Wall Street Journal, extensive interviews regarding the speech. The author directly contradicts the conclusion of JFK researcher Thurston Clarke (Ask Not, 2004), who lately gave principal authorship credit to the president. “Of the 51 sentences in the inaugural address, John Kennedy might be said to have been the principal original author of no more than 14,” Tofel asserts, and that’s giving the President credit for every sentence of “unclear” origin. He adds that with,changes made during a transcription of dictation taken by Kennedy's secretary plus his ad libs in delivery, “only nine sentences were principally originally Kennedy's. This compares with eight sentences from Adlai Stevenson.” A handful of other Kennedy associates and backers, the author notes, donated “language” reflected in the final read—not to mention multiple, readily traceable references from two of JFK’s personal icons, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Tofel’s probe is resplendent with minutiae. (He relates, for instance, how at one point during the speech, Jackie Kennedy dented her pillbox hat while trying to keep it from blowing away. Within weeks, designers were offering pillbox hats pre-dented.) Above and beyond the controversy that is the center of the book, Tofel offers a worthy examination of inaugural addresses in general and a look at how the Kennedy mystique captured the nation’s attention.
Engrossing study of top-level creativity-by-committee.