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Widmer on Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Former Clinton speechwriter Ted Widmer, now at Brown's John Carter Brown Library, returns to the Phoenix's pages (he's a former columnist), with a well-observed tribute to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.:

 In fact, we might not be here at all if it weren’t for him. I remember a story he told once about a single book, Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, and how it might have saved humanity. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, when the world was on the brink, John F. Kennedy got a hold of Tuchman’s book, which explained how a series of bone-headed military experts had embroiled Europe in World War I. Chastened by this lesson from history, Kennedy avoided the advice from his hardliners that would have plunged the world into darkness. What Arthur didn’t tell in his story, and what I wondered about afterward, was whether he had placed the book in Kennedy’s hands. Even if he hadn’t, it was comforting to know that a historian had once worked so closely with a president, and that a president had embraced the world of ideas so willingly.

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