September 29, 2016 Edward Widmer Appointed Director of the John W. Kluge Center

Brings Experience from Academia, Politics and Journalism to Empower Scholarly Research

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer (202) 707-0213

Historian, author, librarian and presidential speechwriter Edward L. (Ted) Widmer, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York and a senior fellow and adjunct professor of history at Brown University, has been appointed director of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, effective Oct. 3, 2016.

“Ted brings a wealth of talent and experience to the position. I am certain that under his leadership the Kluge Center will thrive as a haven for serious research and a venue to showcase and celebrate scholarly achievements for the benefit of Congress and the public,” said Jane McAuliffe, director of National and International Outreach at the Library.

The Kluge Center invites distinguished scholars from around the world to conduct research at the Library of Congress, facilitates their access to the Library's remarkable collections, and engages them in conversation with members of the U.S. Congress and other public figures. Since the center opened in 2000, it has welcomed more than 1,000 senior and junior scholars and researchers; hosted hundreds of public lectures, symposia and conferences; and awarded the Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity to 10 world-renowned intellectuals.

Widmer ’s wide-ranging career spans the worlds of academia, politics and journalism.

He is the author or editor of many historical treatises, including a book published this month, “The New York Times Disunion: A History of the Civil War”; “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy”; a biography of Martin Van Buren; and “Ark of the Liberties: America and the World,” a 2008 publication that was featured as an “Editors’ Pick” by the New York Times. A forthcoming book, to be released in 2017, is “Lincoln on the Verge: An Odyssey, By Rail.”

Widmer was a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University from 1993-1997. He briefly left academia to serve as special assistant to the president for National Security Affairs and director for speechwriting at the National Security Council, from 1997-2000, crafting foreign-policy speeches for President Bill Clinton. In his capacity as a special adviser to the president for special projects (2000-2001), he advised President Clinton on issues related to history and scholarship. Widmer continued his work with Clinton as a special assistant from 2001-2004, conducting in-depth interviews with the former president as he wrote his autobiography “My Life.” Simultaneously, Widmer returned to the academic world as the inaugural director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland (2001-2006).

From 2006-2012, he served as the Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo Director and Librarian at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. Under his direction, the library upgraded its entire digital architecture, placing it on a modern footing for the 21st century, and engaged in several digital partnerships and ventures including the creation of a digital archive of Haitian historical materials and participation in the World Digital Library, which is hosted by the Library of Congress.

Widmer returned to public service in 2012, when he accepted the role of senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her last year in office. He then returned to Brown as assistant to the president of Brown University for special projects (2012-2015), in which capacity he prepared a history of the university to commemorate its 250th anniversary (“Brown: The History of an Idea”), and returned to the classroom as an adjunct professor of history. Widmer has been with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs since 2015. He has been a frequent contributor to a variety of publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe and Politico. He also serves on the board of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Widmer holds an A.B. in the history and literature of France and America, an A.M. in history, and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization, all from Harvard University.

The Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. For more information about the center, visit

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PR 16-172
ISSN 0731-3527