July 9, 2007
Prologue Magazine Recounts a Costly Battle over Sanity, and the Struggle behind One of Reagan’s Landmark Speeches
Washington, DC…He was one of the heirs to the McCormick fortune of Chicago, and she was one of the first well-educated women’s rights activists. Their marriage in 1904 was one of the big social events of the times.
But all was not well. Stanley McCormick’s sanity was in question, and he required constant care. Katharine McCormick began a decades-long battle with her husband’s physicians over the proper care for him-a fight documented in the files of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In the Summer Prologue, author Miriam Kleiman recounts the long, very expensive, and often bitter battle over McCormick’s sanity and the involvement of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, as well as Katharine’s pioneering work in reproductive health. The story is told using records from St. Elizabeth’s, for many years a federal facility.
Elsewhere in the Summer Prologue, Peter Robinson, a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan who is now a scholar at Stanford University, recounts his work drafting Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987-the one that called on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
Reagan was getting strong pressure from the foreign policy establishment to take out the line or to use “language so vague and euphemistic that everybody could see right away he didn’t mean it,” Robinson writes. But the President did mean it, and Robinson tells how it got there and how it stayed there, becoming one of Reagan’s most famous lines in one of his most memorable speeches.
Some interesting stories have no endings where everything is neatly tied up: they are mysteries. Tim Walch and Maureen Harding of the Hoover Library offer “America’s Mysteries, Riddles, and Controversies,” based on an exhibit at the library through October 28. They take a look at a number of mysteries, including those involving Billy the Kid, Amelia Earhart, Betsy Ross, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
In the regular Spotlight feature, “Chasing Technology,” Steve Greene discusses the problems that NARA archivists have in preserving audiovisual records-sound recordings, videotape, and film-at a time when the technology changes so quickly.
And in his regular column, Archivist Allen Weinstein discusses one of the issues at the core of the mission of the National Archives-access to records. He details the significant progress NARA has made recently to provide increased access to NARA’s holdings.
For nearly four decades, Prologue has shared with readers the rich resources and programs of the National Archives, its regional archives, and the Presidential libraries.
Each issue features historical articles-drawn from National Archives' holdings and written by noted historians, archivists, and experts-as well as articles explaining and describing many of the National Archives’ activities and programs as the nation’s recordkeeping agency. The Washington Post said, “Prologue . . . can be regarded quite literally as an invitation for further study. It is also consistently absorbing reading.”
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