October 18, 2016 Library Presents Multimedia Web Presentation of Political, Cultural Icons
Curated National Press Club Collection of Sound Recordings and Essays Available Online
Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Public Contact: Alan Gevinson (202) 707-0582
Website: Food for Thought: National Press Club Luncheon Speakers, 1954-1989
The Library of Congress unveiled today a new curated web presentation—“Food for Thought: Presidents, Prime Ministers, and other National Press Club Luncheon Speakers, 1954-1989”—that features speeches by 25 of the world’s most important newsmakers, including presidents, international leaders and other political and cultural icons of the period.
Most of these select speeches from the Library’s National Press Club Collection have not been heard in their entirety since they were initially delivered. The online presentation spans 35 years and accompanying essays put relevant historical context around the topics discussed by the speakers.
“In recognition of the historical importance of the luncheon talks, the Library of Congress has undertaken to digitize the complete National Press Club collection of recordings,” said Eugene DeAnna, head of the Library’s Recorded Sound Section, part of the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.
“Researchers visiting our Recorded Sound Research Center can listen to any of the hundreds of speeches, but we have selected talks by 25 of the most distinguished speakers. This enlightening online presentation has great potential for use in the classroom because audio has the ability to convey experience and ideas more powerfully than the written word. It can grab a student’s attention due to its power to establish an experiential connection between listener and speaker,” he said.
The selections to the online presentation are part of a trove of nearly 2,000 historic sound recordings in the National Press Club Collection. The 25 selected speakers include:
- Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton, Aug. 27, 1976
- James Baldwin, Dec. 10, 1986
- Menachem Begin, March 23, 1978
- Leonard Bernstein, Oct. 13, 1959
- James H. Billington, Jan. 12, 1989
- George H.W. Bush, March 20, 1981
- Jimmy Carter, Oct. 14, 1980
- Fidel Castro, April 20, 1959
- Charles de Gaulle, April 23, 1960
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jan. 14, 1959
- Gerald R. Ford, June 6, 1988
- Audrey Hepburn, April 7, 1989
- Alfred Hitchcock, March 14, 1963
- Herbert Hoover, March 10, 1954
- Bob Hope, July 8, 1980
- Nikita Khrushchev, Sept. 16, 1959
- Edward R. Murrow, May 24, 1961
- Richard M. Nixon, May 21, 1958
- A. Philip Randolph, Aug. 26, 1963
- Ronald Reagan, June 16, 1966
- Anwar Sadat, Feb. 6, 1978
- Jonas Salk, April 12, 1965
- Adlai E. Stevenson, June 26, 1961
- Margaret Thatcher, Sept. 19, 1975
- Harry S. Truman, May 10, 1954, April 12, 1958, Dec. 8, 1958, Nov. 2, 1961
Since 1932, the National Press Club (www.press.org) has hosted luncheon gatherings that have allowed presidents, visiting world leaders and other public figures to address the press and answer questions about important current affairs. In 1969, the club donated its collection of audiotapes, which it began recording in 1952.
Some of the prominent newsmakers in “Food for Thought” used the luncheon speaker series as a forum to make statements they knew would be reported in the next day’s news. Many talks focused on Cold War topics, such as the Berlin Crisis, the Bay of Pigs incident, Latin American relations and cultural diplomacy activities. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin both used the Press Club forum to explain their positions to the press and public during strained talks that eventually led to a peace treaty.
A number of the speeches dealt with struggles for civil rights. A. Philip Randolph, national director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, spoke at the club two days before the march. Edward R. Murrow, who chose the National Press Club for his first speech since his appointment by President Kennedy as the director of the United States Information Agency, emphasized that the U.S. image abroad had been badly impaired by news stories of racial discrimination at home. James Baldwin’s talk marked one of his last attempts to discuss the meaning and impact of race in American life, insight he had developed over a career that began in the 1940s.
The National Press Club served to introduce international speakers to Washington insiders. Margaret Thatcher made an appearance some four years before she became the first female prime minister in Britain’s history. Her visit impressed members of the Washington establishment and elevated her credentials as an international leader. Fidel Castro arrived just three months after the overthrow of Cuba’s Batista regime at a time when most North Americans had yet to form fixed opinions about him or his revolution. Nikita Khrushchev delivered a talk at the National Press Club the day after he arrived in Washington, D.C., the first visit by a Soviet leader to this country.
Some speakers appeared just before a major event–Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton engaged in a verbal sparring match before an upcoming bout. Alfred Hitchcock regaled his Press Club audience with tongue-in-cheek humor during a publicity tour prior to the premiere of “The Birds.” As goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Audrey Hepburn spoke at a luncheon a few days before journeying to Sudan, where she publicized the organization’s attempt to distribute food, medicine and supplies to more than 2 million people in the southern portion of that war-torn country before the rainy season made conditions impossible for relief efforts to operate.
Some talks took place following historic events. Vice President Richard Nixon spoke a week after he returned from a “goodwill” trip to South America that ended in a violent demonstration of anti-Americanism that threatened his life. Ronald Reagan came to the National Press Club the week after he secured his first triumph in a campaign for public office, a stunning two-to-one victory in the Republican primary for governor of California. The New York Times viewed Reagan’s speech as “the Washington debut of a potential Presidential candidate.”
The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation is a state-of-the-art facility funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute. The Packard Campus is the site where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of motion pictures, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation/). The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board (loc.gov/film/), the National Recording Preservation Board (loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/) and the national registries for film and recorded sound.
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