In Memoriam: Theodore C. Sorensen


A great champion of nuclear disarmament, Theodore C. Sorensen, died on Sunday at the age of 82. As the former Special Counsel to President John F. Kennedy, his was an important voice in the long struggle to, as President Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.”

Ted Sorensen has been an inspiration to the work of Global Security Institute and a personal friend of and adviser to our President, Jonathan Granoff. His generosity in giving his sage advice to our work will be sorely missed. Below are some personal thoughts from Jonathan.

  sorensen mcnamara granoff
Jonathan Granoff and Robert McNamara saluting Ted Sorensen at the American Bar Association’s International Law Section Special Dialogue, 2004

As one of the members of the “New Frontier,” the inner circle of thirtysomethings that dominated President Kennedy’s cabinet, Ted Sorensen was intimately involved in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis and thus was one of the individuals who saved the planet on that thirteenth day in 1962. His involvement in bringing us back from the brink of annihilation fueled his lifelong commitment to nuclear disarmament. GSI is proud to have sponsored this event at the United Nations in 2005, where he and the late Robert McNamara imparted their wisdom with the UN community. (The webcast requires RealPlayer to view.) As Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s International Law Section’s Blue Ribbon Taskforce on Non-proliferation, Mr. Granoff hosted a special dialogue with Mr. Sorensen and Mr. McNamara at the Spring meeting of the ABA in 2004.

Mr. Sorensen worked with President Kennedy on some of his greatest speeches, including the immortal words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Together they infused many of Kennedy’s speeches with this sense of self-reflective duty, virtues that we as peacemakers must strive to attain every day: “Every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of peace…” (from Kennedy’s 1963 commencement address to American University.) As we work to achieve the disarmament vision of Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Obama, let us reaffirm peace, not only as a possibility, but, as Ted Sorensen understood it, as a moral imperative to achieve.

– Global Security Institute

» Watch the dialogue at the ABA with Ted Sorensen, Robert McNamara and Jonathan Granoff

» Watch the UN webcast of the 2005 event at the United Nations

On the passing of Great Soul

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Mr. and Mrs. Sorensen, with MPI Advisor Jayantha Dhanapala and Mr. Granoff

A great servant of God’s funny human family and of all that is good has just passed into the ocean of unity.

May Ted Sorensen’s soul be blessed with infinite love. May God grant his family comfort, faith, and grace. May we follow in the wise ways of caring, clarity, generosity, and insight that characterized so much of Ted’s journey.

While he glowed he never cast a shadow over others.
He made everyone else shine more brightly.
He made intelligence more attractive than ignorance.
He made complexity clear.
He called America to live up to its ideals and become a compass point and source of inspiration for the rest of the world.
He served goodness first and knew the secret of getting much done by letting others take credit.
He knew the practical and  moral imperative of our time long before most of us and thus understood that the varieties of the human family and its nations have a shared fate and must work together rather than in conflict.
He rested his respect and service to law on the foundation of its promise of justice.
He demonstrated the capacity of ideas to move history.
He did all this because he had love in his heart.

May God’s love embrace him fully forever and grant us peace as we journey in his footsteps. Amen.

Deeply grateful to have walked with him a bit,
My heart goes out all who understand the grandeur of this man and who are thus grieved,
May God’s love be our consolation,
Jonathan Granoff

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