19 January, 2009

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.


Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr., born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger, was a Pulitzer Prize recipient and American historian and social critic whose work explored the liberalism of American political leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. He served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of the Kennedy Administration, from the transition period to the president's state funeral, titled A Thousand Days. In 1968, he actively supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy until Kennedy's assassination in the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, and wrote the biography Robert Kennedy and His Times several years later.

During the deliberations of the United States decision to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, with President Kennedy and his closest advisers, he was one of two persons who opposed the strike (the other being William Fulbright); however, he sat silent, except writing a private memorandum to the President, not wanting to undermine the President's desire for a unanimous decision. Following the overt failure of the invasion, Schlesinger later lamented "In the months after the Bay of Pigs, I bitterly reproached myself for having kept so silent during those crucial discussions in the cabinet room . . . I can only explain my failure to do more than raise a few timid questions by reporting that one's impulse to blow the whistle on this nonsense was simply undone by the circumstances of the discussion." Schlesinger was a prolific contributor to liberal theory and was a passionate and articulate voice for Kennedy-style liberalism. He was admired for his wit, scholarship, and devotion to delineating the history and nature of liberalism. Since 1990 he had been a critic of multiculturalism.

He popularized the term "imperial presidency" during the Nixon administration by writing the book The Imperial Presidency.

“ If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, and courage. These things are rarely produced by committees. Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself.”

Mr. Schlesinger died on February 28, 2007, at the age of 89.

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