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Archive for '- Cold War'

History in a Cap and Gown

President Kennedy addresses the American University Commencement, receives honorary degree. Washington, D.C., American University, John M. Reeves Athletic Field., 06/10/1963 (Kennedy Library, ARC 194263)

We’re now in the middle of commencement season, and there’ll be many words of wisdom coming from the mouths of speakers: academicians, celebrities, inventors, authors, artists, business people, and political leaders.

Sometimes commencement speeches become historic.

President John F. Kennedy announced talks for a test-ban treaty in his commencement speech at American University in 1963, and a treaty banning nuclear testing above ground was signed later in the year. “In the final analysis,” Kennedy said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson officially unveiled his “Great Society” in his commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1964. “The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to . . . advance the quality of our American civilization,” Johnson told the graduates. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the ‘Great Society.’”

Another historic speech was made at the Harvard commencement in 1947. President Harry S. Truman’s administration was preparing a plan … [ Read all ]

Pennsylvania Avenue Hotline

Today’s guest post comes from David Coleman,  associate professor at the University of Virginia and Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

On April 28, W.W. Norton will publish volumes 7 and 8 in the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson series. (The original tapes are in the holdings of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.) The volumes, which span June through July 4, 1964, were edited by Guian McKee, Kent Germany, and David Carter.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, the National Archives will host Dave Coleman, the editors, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Taylor Branch to discuss these latest books.

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

“That’s a good bill, and there’s no reason why you ought to keep a majority from beating it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it, but you oughtn’t to hold it up. You ought to give me a fair shake and give me a chance to vote on it.”
—LBJ to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, 6:24 p.m., June 22, 1964

 

Behind-the-scenes discussions between the White House and Capitol Hill can be an essential piece of the puzzle in understanding how and why legislation was passed, rejected, or changed, or even a government shutdown averted. But they’re typically

[ Read all ]

An Egg-centric White House Tradition

In 1958 Bunny, Hazel, Fred (Skippy), and Darlene Johansen attend the Eisenhowers' White House Easter Egg Roll. (Eisenhower Library)

In 1958 Bunny, Hazel, Fred (Skippy), and Darlene Johansen attend the Eisenhowers' White House Easter Egg Roll. (Eisenhower Library)

Today’s an eggs-ellent day in Washington, DC, for young people! It’s the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, where hundreds of children gather to roll eggs and play games on the South Lawn of the President’s House.

But the tradition did not start at the White House. It began on the lawns and terraces of the Capitol after the Civil War. Children of all races and backgrounds rolled eggs and played games on the turf around the Capitol.

But in 1878, children who arrived at the Capitol on Easter Monday were turned away.

Congress had passed a law to prevent these young citizens from taking such liberties on the grounds, and it became the “duty of the Capitol police hereafter to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as playgrounds or otherwise.”

It’s not clear how the party was rolled over to the White House, but a newspaper clipping in Rutherford B. Hayes’s personal scrapbook shows he was the first President to officially allow the Executive Mansion to be used for egg rolling. (There were informal egg rollings there as early as Lincoln’s administration.)

The good times and egg rolling continued through the following Presidential administrations with a few brief interruptions. In … [ Read all ]

JFK’s Cold War Calculations

ar206454-bOn April 20, 1961, exactly three months after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion. In his speech, Kennedy addressed one of the most crucial decisions of his presidency—his choice not to provide air cover for the 1,400 men of the Cuban exile brigade at the Bay of Pigs.

 

Although planning for the invasion began under the Eisenhower administration, President Kennedy opted to approve the operation upon taking office. But the invasion was doomed as soon as the CIA-trained exiles landed ashore in Cuba. The Soviet-supplied Cuban military was well equipped and had overwhelming resources in terms of manpower.

 

Once failure appeared imminent, military personnel and CIA officials scrambled to persuade Kennedy to deploy U.S. air cover in hopes of salvaging the operation. The President, however, refused to approve the direct military intervention sought by the advisors who had fully endorsed the invasion’s initial provisions.

 

In the end, Cuban forces easily defeated the undermanned exile brigade within three days. To make matters worse for Kennedy, U.S. involvement was undeniable and media coverage made the failure a highly publicized national issue.

 

In the aftermath of the invasion, the President moved quickly to justify his decision to approve the invasion but not to provide air cover. Speaking before the ASNE, Kennedy [ Read all ]

Fat Man, Little Boy, A Packet of Jell-O

Item: Jell-O Box Exhibit Used in the Espionage Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, 03/06/1951 - 03/29/1951 (ARC 278774)

Item: Jell-O Box exhibit used in the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, 03/06/1951 - 03/29/1951 (Records of United States Attorneys, RG 118; ARC 278774)

A search for “Rosenberg” in the Open Public Access system of the National Archives brings up a strange and poignant collection of documents: a passport picture of a family with the mother clutching a tiny infant, childlike sketches of shapes, a smiling couple, and an empty Jell-O box.

In September 1949, the White House announced the Soviets had successfully detonated an atomic bomb. The secrets behind the construction of Fat Man and Little Boy—the atomic bombs that had devasted Nagasaki and Hiroshima—were in the hands of the Soviets.

In 1950 the FBI arrested Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British atomic scientist. Although Fuchs did not know his American contact, the FBI eventually identified Harry Gold, a Philadelphia chemist. And in turn, this led to David Greenglass, a U.S. Army soldier and Soviet agent who had been assigned to Los Alamos, NM, where the bombs were built.

In June 1945, Greenglass had given material in to Anatoli Yakovlev, former Soviet vice-consul in New York City. And according to the FBI, Julius and Ethel Rosenbergs had been instrumental in persuading and assisting David Greenglass, brother of Ethel Rosenberg, in passing the secrets to Yakovlev.

But what about the Jell-O box?

Like a “Best Friends” necklace, pieces of the … [ Read all ]