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Presidential Archives Uncovered

Listen to the voices of the Presidents! In these historical clips from the Libraries' collections, you'll hear Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton talk about serious policy issues with their advisors, address the nation, or have conversations with friends and family members. You'll hear the presidents speak both publicly and privately about issues of their day.

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Nixon Reflects on China Trip

After returning from China in 1972, President Nixon explained to a group of Congressional leaders, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, the importance of restoring communication with China as a way of mitigating suspicion and miscalculation, which could lead to war.

Establishing the Peace Corps

Kennedy asked his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, to direct a Peace Corps Task Force. Shriver, known for his ability to identify and motivate creative, visionary leaders, led the group to quickly shape the organization. After only a month of intense dialogue and debate among task force members, Shriver outlined "seven steps" to forming the Peace Corps in a February 22, 1961, memorandum to Kennedy. Avoiding a drawn out legislative process, Kennedy launched the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order.

Johnson and the Great Society

This episode features a number of audio clips from the Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. Lyndon B. Johnson envisioned a Great Society to end poverty, promote equality, improve education, rejuvenate cities and protect the environment. In a speech at the University of Michigan on May 22, 1964, Johnson declared, "The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But this is just the beginning."

Peace Corps, CIA, and the Foreign Service

In the following telephone conversation between President Kennedy and R. Sargent Shriver, the two men discuss possible CIA penetration of the Peace Corps. They also discuss returning Peace Corps volunteers entering the Foreign Service.

Gulf of Tonkin and Civil Rights Workers

Tuesday, August 4, 1964, was a day of startling news in the White House. The President planned to work on his legislative program, particularly by using the tactic many called the Johnson treatment to encourage passage of the poverty bill, which was signed on August 20th as the Economic Opportunity Act. But two crises interrupted work that day.

Kennedy Speaks at the University of Michigan

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy arrived on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan in the early morning of October 14, 1960. In historic impromptu remarks on the steps of the Student Union he asked the assembled students, who had been waiting for hours, if they would be willing to volunteer in assisting underdeveloped foreign countries. This is now widely regarded as the beginning of what was to become one of President Kennedy's most enduring legacies, the Peace Corps.

Noonan's Exit Interview

In this exit interview conducted on June 18, 1986, President Reagan's speechwriter Peggy Noonan talks about how she came to work in the White House and what that experience was like.

Nixon's Rationale for China Trip

On July 15, 1971, President Nixon announced to the nation that the People's Republic of China had invited him to visit, and he had accepted. He also stated that Henry Kissinger, who was Assistant for National Security Affairs, had made a secret trip to Peking in order to plan for the visit. His announcement resulted in strong public reactions for and against the President's planned trip.

Kirk Douglas wrote, "Your announcement last night of your impending visit to the People's Republic of China was a giant step forward not only toward peace in Vietnam but global peace."

Maryann Grelinger's telegram to the President was less supportive. She wrote, "Have fun in Red China. Hope they keep you."

In the following conversation, Nixon explains his rationale for the visit.

Voting Rights Message

Imagine it is March 1965. The Civil Rights movement is at its height, and you've just watched on television law enforcement officers brutally attacking Civil Rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama. The President addresses a Joint Session of Congress in a nationally televised speech announcing his intention to send a bill to Congress that would eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote. This speech would become known as the "The American Promise" or the Voting Rights Message.

Ford and the End of the Vietnam War

On April 23, 1975, President Ford was scheduled to speak to 6,000 students at Tulane University in New Orleans. Presidential Counselor Robert Hartmann (in his book Palace Politics, page 321) reports the following discussion between Ford and his speechwriters: "What I want to get across," Ford began, "is the idea of all the challenges awaiting college students today. I want to give them a feeling of purpose, of being needed. They should think about the future, stop arguing about the past. Vietnam has been going on ever since any of them can remember. Well, the war's over." "Why don't you say just that?" I [Hartmann] asked. Ford's brow furrowed. "I'm not sure Henry [Kissinger] would approve." In the end, President Ford decided to include that line in the speech. His reference to "a war that is finished as far as America is concerned" drew a standing ovation from the students.

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Johnson and King Telephone Conversation

President Johnson talks with Martin Luther King, Jr., on January 15, 1965. The President discusses his strategies for passing health, education, and welfare legislation as well as his idea for insuring voting rights for African American citizens. This four-minute excerpt from the twenty minute conversation ends with a direct statement from President Johnson, "I just don't see how anybody can say that a man can fight in Vietnam, but he can't vote in the post office."

Roosevelt's War Message

At 12:30 p.m. on December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before a Joint Session of Congress to deliver his War Message, an address now known as the Day of Infamy Speech, and asked Congress to declare the existence of a state of war between Japan and the United States.

Noonan and the Challenger Speech

The morning of January 28, 1986, children in classrooms across the nation watched the Space Shuttle Challenger lift-off, and 73 seconds later, explode in a ball of fire and gaseous vapor. Presidential Speechwriter Peggy Noonan talks about the speech President Reagan gave to the nation.

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Panama Canal Treaties

During the first years of the Carter presidency, few events aroused such intense controversy as the negotiation and ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. Although past presidents had admitted the need for new treaties, many Americans loudly opposed giving away the canal. When the Senate ratified the Panama Canal treaties in March and April 1978, each by one-vote margins, President Carter's long ordeal ended. He made an address at the Treaty signing ceremony on June 16, 1978.

Peace Corps

President Kennedy launched the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Four months later, he spoke in the White House Rose Garden to the first group of Peace Corps volunteers.

Decision to Drop the Atomic Bombs

On September 1, 1945, President Harry S. Truman addressed the American people after the signing of the terms of unconditional surrender by Japan.

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Central High School Integration Crisis

When state and local authorities failed to uphold the Federal Court orders for integration at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, President Dwight Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce those orders.

Johnson and Mrs. Johnson

Two crises interrupted the work of the President on August 4, 1964. The First Lady knew what a difficult day it had been for her husband when she called to speak to him by telephone at 8:35 p.m.

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Nixon, China, and Pandas

As a result of President Nixon's trip to the People's Republic of China in 1972, the United States received two giant pandas. President and Mrs. Nixon discuss the pandas' arrival at the National Zoo.

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