Listening In by Ted Widmer
The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy

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Certainly it’s endlessly interesting history, although even with Widmer’s best efforts, it doesn’t always make interesting reading.
-Open Letters Monthly


In July 1962, in an effort to preserve an accurate record of Presidential decision-making in a highly charged atmosphere of conflicting viewpoints, strategies and tactics, John F. Kennedy installed hidden recording systems in the Oval Office and in the Cabinet Room. The result is a priceless historical archive comprising some 265 hours of taped material. JFK was elected president when Civil Rights tensions were near the boiling point, and Americans feared a nuclear war. Confronted with complex dilemmas necessitating swift and unprecedented action, President Kennedy engaged in intense discussion and debate with his cabinet members and other advisors. Now, in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy presidency, the John F. Kennedy Library and historian Ted Widmer have carefully selected the most compelling and important of these remarkable recordings for release, fully restored and re-mastered onto two 75-minute CDs for the first time. Listening In represents a uniquely unscripted, insider account of a president and his cabinet grappling with the day-to-day business of the White House and guiding the nation through a hazardous era of uncertainty.

Accompanied by extensively annotated transcripts of the recordings, and with a foreword by Caroline Kennedy, Listening In delivers the story behind the story in the unguarded words and voices of the decision-makers themselves. Listening In covers watershed events, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, Vietnam, and the arms race, and offers fascinating glimpses into the intellectual methodology of a circumspect president and his brilliant, eclectic brain trust.

Just as the unique vision of President John F. Kennedy continues to resonate half a century after his stirring speeches and bold policy decisions, the documentary candor of Listening In imparts a vivid, breathtaking immediacy that will significantly expand our understanding of his time in office.

About Ted Widmer

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Forward by Caroline Kennedy, editor of the New York Times bestselling Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, She Walks in Beauty, A Patriot's Handbook, Profiles in Courage for Our Time, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, A Family of Poems, and A Family Christmas and the coauthor of The Right to Privacy and In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. She serves as president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and lives in New York City. Annotation by Ted Widmer, Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He is the author or editor of many works of American history, and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, and other publications. He was a speechwriter and senior adviser to President Clinton, and conducted the oral history project that accompanied President Clinton's preparation for his memoir, My Life. He was educated at Harvard University.
Published December 18, 2012 by Hachette Books. 320 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Oct 14 2012
Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Listening In
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

The Washington Post

Reviewed by Becky Krystal

Even his critics...would have a hard time arguing against the merit of an insider glimpse at an eventful couple of years.

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Open Letters Monthly

Below average
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue

Certainly it’s endlessly interesting history, although even with Widmer’s best efforts, it doesn’t always make interesting reading.

Read Full Review of Listening In: The Secret Whit...

Rocky Mount Telegram

Reviewed by Mae Woods Bell on Nov 23 2012

Excerpts from Kennedy’s recordings are a glance into world-changing events such as the struggle for civil rights, the Cuban missile crisis...and formation of the Peace Corps.

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