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About the Daniel P. Moynihan Papers

Educator, politician, sociologist and diplomat Daniel Patrick Moynihan (March 16, 1927-March 26, 2003) had a long and varied career in academia, public service, and global affairs.

Before becoming the 12th United States ambassador to the United Nations in 1975, Moynihan held cabinet or subcabinet positions under four U.S. Presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford.

Moynihan is best known as a U.S. senator from the state of New York. He began his senatorial career in 1977 and served as a Democratic Party leader in Congress until he left Capitol Hill in January 2001. The chairman of key Congressional committees during his career in the Senate, Moynihan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000. He became a scholar at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars after his retirement from political office.

Moynihan was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His family moved to New York City when he was a young boy, and a strong loyalty and connection to New York would shape much of Moynihan’s career in public life. He grew up with little means, experiencing a working-class urban street-wise childhood before graduating from high school in Harlem. Time in the U.S. Navy led to officer training and an undergraduate education, as well as active duty in World War II. Moynihan went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, followed by a fellowship at the London School of Economics.

His entre to politics at the state level came through his support for W. Averell Harriman’s successful 1954 gubernatorial campaign. By the end of the decade, his public service shifted to the arena of Washington, D.C. A delegate for John F. Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, he became assistant secretary of labor in the Kennedy Administration. His career as a public servant in the executive branch was launched. Poverty and urban affairs were among the primary areas of his policy focus over the next several years, as he served in senior policy positions in the Department of Labor in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and as senior presidential advisor on urban and welfare policy in the Nixon administration.

A stint from 1973 to 1975 as U.S. ambassador to India preceded Moynihan’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. From the U.N. Moynihan’s path led to the U.S. Senate. Ever in touch with his academic roots, Moynihan also had a career as an author of books on sociology and public policy, as well as a lecturer and teacher. He famously observed in “The Politics of a Guaranteed Income” (1973) that “No one is innocent after the experience of governing. But not everyone is guilty.”

Moynihan deposited his papers with the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress during his time in Washington, D.C., from 1978 to 2003. After his death, the deposit was converted to a gift by his wife, Elizabeth B. Moynihan. The family made additional gifts between 2003 and 2007.

At well over a million items, the Moynihan collection in the Manuscript Division is one of the largest manuscript collections of personal papers at the Library of Congress. In it readers can find correspondence, speeches, writings, legislative files, notes, press releases and many other resources that offer light on Moynihan’s personal career, as well as the issues and events of much of American politics in the last half of the Twentieth Century.

More About the Collection
Library of Congress online catalog records for the Daniel P. Moynihan Papers list key topical subjects of his papers as well as the names of some of Moynihan’s primary correspondents. See the records for Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV of the Moynihan Papers.

The Finding Aid for the Daniel P. Moynihan Papers at the Library of Congress provides further detail about the organization of the collection. Use it to plan your research prior to come to the Library of Congress, or to investigate the structure and contents of the Library’s holdings.

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  October 14, 2010
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