About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Road to Camelot"

Good afternoon. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. Whether you are here in the theater or watching on YouTube, we’re glad you could join us for today’s discussion the new book The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five Year Campaign by Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie.

Before we get started, I want to tell you about two other programs coming up here at the McGowan Theater.

On Tuesday, August 22, at noon, award-winning author Walter Stahr will be here to talk about his book, Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary.  Stahr offers a masterly account of one of the great characters of the Civil War. The Secretary of War from 1862-1865 was irascible, autocratic, and vengeful, but also steadfast, punctilious, and practical. This fascinating biography reveals how such a complex and unlikely figure came to play such a vital role at the country's hour of peril. A book signing follows the program.

On Thursday, September 7, at 7 p.m., please join us for the program The Words that Built America. Narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, The Words That Built America is an unabridged reading of the authentic words of our founding fathers. Joining us to introduce the film will be director-producer Alexandra Pelosi, who brought together more than 100 readers, including all the living presidents and vice presidents, as well as Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries and the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, along with a wide array of celebrities, leading media figures and young people to read these iconic documents. 

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie take us behind the scenes of John F. Kennedy’s campaign to the White House in The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign. The authors follow Kennedy from his failed attempt to win the Vice Presidential nomination in 1956 to his success at capturing the Presidency in 1960.

The book offers a detailed account of how a young Kennedy plots his way to the Presidency and changes the way we nominate and elect Presidents. 

In reviewing The Road to Camelot, Harvard historian Fredrik Logevall writes in The Boston Globe: “Perhaps the best thing about The Road to Camelot, Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie’s splendid new book about John F. Kennedy’s quest for the presidency in 1960, is the authors’ unmistakable and quite infectious love for their subject....[and] their palpable affection for that many-splendored thing called the American presidential campaign.”

Steve Donoghue of the Christian Science Monitor says “Veteran reporters Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie have crafted a tougher and more balanced account of the long campaign than anybody's written yet….The authors pull no punches in their assessment of the candidate whose story they're telling. This is the story of John Kennedy making all the decisions and calling all the shots, a man in complete control of his message and his campaign – the chief architect of his own victory.”

And Ray Locker of USA Today writes “The authors' knowledge of politics, campaigns, and the Presidency crackles off each page. They touch all the Kennedy bases here, detailing the roles played by Robert Kennedy...as well as aides Theodore Sorenson, Lawrence O'Brien and others...They take Kennedy from his time as a relative lightweight with a thin Senate resume to an iconic President, which makes The Road to Camelot a must-read for fans of presidential history.”

Oliphant and Wilkie did considerable research at the Kennedy Library in Boston, which proved to be a magnificent resource for them.  The Kennedy Library and the 13 other Presidential Libraries are part of the National Archives and are tremendous resources for the study of the Presidency and those who have occupied the office since Herbert Hoover in 1929.

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Thomas Oliphant is a Pulitzer prize–winning journalist and author. After graduation from Harvard University, he joined the staff of the Boston Globe. During his nearly four-decade career with the newspaper, he served as its Washington correspondent and reported on 10 Presidential campaigns. He was one of three editors who managed The Globe's coverage of school desegregation in Boston, work which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He has also received a writing award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Oliphant has been a frequent guest on television news programs, including Nightline, Face the Nation, the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. He was also a regular guest on The Al Franken Show, where he also appeared as a guest host.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Thomas Oliphant.