Ted Sorenson likes to say it took awhile for his interest in politics to develop—he wasn't interested at all until he was 4 years old. The former speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy talks with Dr. Oz about his role in the Kennedy administration and why he's getting involved with Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
After graduating from law school in Nebraska, Ted came to Washington, D.C., and landed a job with the newly-elected President Kennedy. "What impressed me most was, in some way, that this extraordinary man was an ordinary man," he says. "He didn't try to overwhelm me with his importance as politicians usually do."
Though on the surface they came from completely different backgrounds, Ted says at heart the two men had a lot in common. "Both of us were interested in public policy and public service," he says. "We were both raised by our parents to make this a better country and a better world."
As President Kennedy's speechwriter, Ted penned one of the best-known phrases of our time: "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." While he doesn't have an easy answer for how to craft a great speech, he says success comes down to a few lines: an outline, a headline, a frontline and a sideline. The outline is the most important part, but the sideline adds color to the speech, Ted says. Anything from an historical anecdote to a quotation from the Bible or one of the founding fathers can fill the bill.
Scornful of those who dismiss inspirational speechmaking as "just words", Ted believes that Senator Barack Obama is using his oratorical skills to follow in President Kennedy's footsteps. "Kennedy was able to build bridges to audiences of all kinds. He had empathy, he had dignity, he had compassion and a dream for a better life for everybody," Ted says. "Those qualities reached out, especially to young people. Once again, because of Senator Obama, young people are getting involved and enthusiastic after decades of disillusionment and cynicism."
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, December 11, 2013