Interview with Harris Wofford


Harris Wofford:

Um… you're… what I said to you on the phone I'm not sure. One… when… when you're a speech writer for someone like ah, Kennedy or ah, a political figure, it's a very interesting process in which in a sense policy gets shaped by the drafts that are submitted to the person. And that happened often in civil rights and one… one of the occasions was after the sit-ins began it… it seemed appropriate to have a… a statement by… by Kennedy as a candidate. Ah, and the sit-in students were meeting in the… in the ah, I think Spring of 1960 in Atlanta. And we gave Kennedy a draft of a speech, of a statement for him to send, a message for Kennedy to send to the sit-in students in Atlanta and it had a strong statement in it which was ah, the… something to the effect of they have shown that the new way for Americans to stand up for their rights is to sit down. And Kennedy loved that statement and said, you know, and people were saying, "That's much too strong. That's really going to… you know, it's really going to bother the white southerners," and Kennedy said, "Go with it. That's good. [noise] Go with it." And ah, we throughout the campaign we used that statement on basic literature and ah, we ran with that statement a long ways. But, but Kennedy liked it, which was ah, you know one of the signs to me that he was going to be fun in civil rights. That he… you know that he wanted to get moving on the problem. Much as he was concerned about its political ah, difficulty, ah, his instinct was to you know, to get action, and to… and to support people that were acting.