Presidents' Day Conference at Kennedy Library To Explore Secret Tapes of Six U.S. Presidents: From FDR to Nixon, Recordings Reveal Candid Moments of Complex Men
Press Release · Monday, August 19, 2002

Washington, DC

On February 16 and 17, 2003, Presidents' Day weekend, top presidential historians, former advisors to Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson, first-family members, archivists, and journalists will convene at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to discuss the historical importance of secretly recorded White House tapes of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Discussions will also center on what the tapes reveal about the leadership style, character, and legacy of each man.

"This first-ever government conference on presidential tapes should offer new insights into how some of the most important decisions of the 20th century were made, " said John Carlin, Archivist of the United States. "Though sometimes controversial, these White House tapes help us better interpret each president and the times and challenges he faced."

The conference's sessions will cover a variety of topics, including John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, speaking on how and when he learned about the Watergate tapes; Lynda Johnson Robb on the decision to release President Johnson's tapes; and Time's Washington contributing editor Hugh Sidey on how listening to private presidential conversations sheds light on the way presidents set policy of national and international importance.

The practice of secretly recording conversations and meetings in the White House began in 1940 with Franklin Roosevelt, who wanted to ensure that he was accurately quoted by the media following press conferences. The practice ended with Richard Nixon in 1974. The hours of tapes -- eight for FDR, hundreds for Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, and thousands for Nixon -- are archived at each president's respective library and by the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff in Maryland.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, and the National Archives and Records Administration are sponsoring the two-day conference at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

Participants in this first-ever National Presidential Tapes Conference will include:

  • Michael Beschloss, an historian specializing in the US presidency and American politics, who has written books on Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Roosevelt
  • Dino Brugioni, former CIA satellite reconnaissance officer and author of Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon and author of the recently published Unmasking Deep Throat: History's Most Elusive News Source
  • David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and professor at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Carl Kaysen, former deputy special assistant for national security affairs to President Kennedy
  • Stanley Kutler, professor of history, emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin and author of Abuse of Power, a book on the Watergate investigation
  • Harry Middleton, executive director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation
  • Richard Reeves, a writer for The New Yorker, who has written books on Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, Ford, Clinton, and Nixon
  • Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Hugh Sidey, Time Magazine's Washington contributing editor, who has covered the presidency for more than thirty years, and author of Profiles of the Presidents: From FDR to Clinton

More information about the February 2003 Presidential Tapes Conference will be available on the Kennedy Library Web page at

For further information, contact Tom McNaught at 617-929-1230.


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