|JFK Conference begins Thursday|
In celebration of the University of North Dakota's 125th anniversary and the 45th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's visit to Grand Forks on Sept. 25, 1963, the University has invited Ted Sorensen, the last living member of Kennedy's inner-circle, and other JFK-era experts from around the world for a unique three-day conference, which kicks off Thursday, Sept. 25, on campus, to reflect on the life and times of the 35th president of the United States.
The "John F. Kennedy History, Memory, Legacy: An Interdisciplinary Conference & Community Event" will, for the most part, take place in the UND Memorial Union, unless otherwise noted. The conference will cover significant issues of the Kennedy era and those addressed in the 1963 speech he delivered at the old UND Fieldhouse, now Hyslop Sports Center. That event is regarded, still today, as the largest gathering of people ever on the UND campus at one time.
Sorensen will be joined by renowned journalist and syndicated columnist Richard Reeves, who wrote what is now considered the authoritative work on President Kennedy -- "President Kennedy: Profile of Power." The two men will be featured speakers at free public events during the conference. Sorensen is slated to speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at UND's Chester Fritz Auditorium. Reeves' event is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks.
The conference will be highlighted by a memorial service for Kennedy at the UND Eternal Flame just north of Twamley Hall near the heart of campus at 3:15 p.m. Thursday. Local, state and other high-ranking dignitaries, including Sorensen and Reeves, have been invited to take part. The public is invited and encouraged to attend, as well.
Topics that will be discussed during the conference include civil rights, space exploration, nuclear threat and the influence of media on presidential politics. The conference also will explore issues related to the Kennedy's assassination, which took place less than two months after his visit to Grand Forks and UND. Panels of experts and UND faculty members will discuss Kennedy-related topics such as the Peace Corps, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, March on Washington and the idea of "Camelot."
Also, at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a screening of the film "13 Days" in the UND Memorial Union Lecture bowl. It is free and open to the public.
UND undergraduate and graduate students will be able to earn academic credits for attending and participating in the conference.
With one of the finest aerospace schools in the world, a nationally hailed Energy & Environmental Research Center, an innovative Peace Studies program, and faculty expertise in areas such as international law, beat poetry, voting rights, supply-side economics and forensic anthropology, UND is uniquely suited to lead this interdisciplinary exploration of the Kennedy era, according to Greg Gordon, UND Law School Professor and conference organizer.
A native of Nebraska, Sorensen worked with President Kennedy on an almost daily basis as the president's speechwriter and special counsel. Kennedy often referred to Sorensen as his "intellectual blood bank." During those years, Sorensen was a first-hand witness to history, and in certain cases, influenced some of the most memorable 20th Century American history, including the showdown with the Soviets over the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He helped draft the famed speech that Kennedy delivered during his inaugural address to the nation in 1961, when Kennedy called on fellow Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Sorensen initially was responsible for advising Kennedy's on domestic issues. Later in his administration, President Kennedy asked Sorensen to take part in foreign policy discussions. Sorensen is noted for writing Kennedy's correspondence with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Following Kennedy's assassination, Sorensen briefly assisted the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, writing Johnson's first speech to Congress, as well as his first State of the Union address.
Sorensen left the White House to write Kennedy's biography in 1965, providing insight into the Kennedy White House and becoming an international bestseller. Today, he continues to play an important role in American history as a speechwriter for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Reeves has won several national awards for his book on Kennedy. It was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 1993 by Time magazine and Book of the Year by Washington Monthly. Reeves also has detailed the lives of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He was the chief political correspondent of The New York Times and named a "Literary Lion" by the New York Public Library. Reeves' weekly column, carried by Universal Press Syndicate, has appeared in more than 100 newspapers across the United States since 1979.
Reeves also has served as a chief correspondent on PBS' investigative series Frontline, won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award, and has appeared in two motion pictures, Dave (1993), and Seabiscuit (2003).
Reeves has received honorary degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology, Drew University and St. Joseph's College.