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National Press Club Luncheon Speakers

Joseph H. Short Jr. of the Philadelphia Inquirer (at the microphone), 1948 NPC President, with Harry S.Truman. National Press Club Archives

About This Collection

Using the Site | Contact Information | Acknowledgments

Since 1932, the National Press Club has hosted luncheon gatherings that have allowed presidents, visiting world leaders, and other leading personages to address the press and answer questions about pressing current affairs. In 1969, the Press Club donated to the Library of Congress audiotapes of talks they had been recording since 1952, a collection that has grown to nearly 2,000 recordings. For Food for Thought: Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Other National Press Club Luncheon Speakers, 1954-1989, the Library has made available online talks by some of its most important luncheon speakers, including eight U.S. presidents (George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald R. Ford, Herbert Hoover, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Harry S. Truman), six foreign heads of state (Menachem Begin, Fidel Castro, Charles de Gaulle, Nikita Khrushchev, Anwar Sadat, and Margaret Thatcher), and such renowned cultural and political icons as Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Hope, Edward R. Murrow, A. Philip Randolph, Jonas Salk, and Adlai E. Stevenson. Accompanying essays set the topics discussed into relevant historical contexts and provide suggestions for further reading.

Prominent figures have used the luncheon speaker series as a forum for issuing pronouncements that they could be sure would be reported in the next day’s news. President Jimmy Carter spoke at the Club three weeks before the November 1980 election outlining a new economic revitalization program. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin both used Press Club talks to explain to the American press and public their positions during strained peace talks that would eventually lead to a treaty.

Many of these talks focus on Cold War topics, such as the Berlin crisis, U.S./Latin American relations, summit meetings, and cultural diplomacy. A number of the talks deal with civil rights struggles. A. Philip Randolph, national director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, put the March into historical context during his talk at the Club two days before the March occurred. Edward R. Murrow, who chose the Press Club for his first speech since his appointment by President Kennedy as the director of the United States Information Agency, emphasized that the American image abroad had been badly tarnished by news stories about attacks on Freedom Riders in Alabama and the discrimination experienced by African diplomats in segregated Washington, D.C. The talk by James Baldwin marked one of his final attempts to present views on the meaning and impact of race in American life that he had developed over a career that began in the 1940s.

The Press Club served to introduce international speakers to Washington insiders. Margaret Thatcher appeared at the Club impressing members of the Washington establishment some four years before she became the first female Prime Minister in Britain’s history. Fidel Castro spoke at the Club just three months after the overthrow of the Batista regime at a time when most North Americans had yet to form fixed opinions about him. Nikita Khrushchev delivered a talk at the Press Club the day after he arrived in Washington for the first ever visit by a Soviet leader to this country.

Some speakers appeared just before embarking on a major event. Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton engaged in a verbal sparring match prior to an upcoming bout. Alfred Hitchcock regaled his Press Club audience with tongue-in-cheek humor during a publicity tour for The Birds. As Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Audrey Hepburn spoke at a National Press Club luncheon a few days before journeying to Sudan, where she publicized the organization’s attempt to distribute food, medicine, and supplies to more than two million people in the southern portion of that war-torn country.

Some talks took place in the days following historic events. Vice President Richard Nixon spoke at the Club a week after he returned from a “goodwill” trip to South America that ended in a vicious demonstration of anti-Americanism threatening his life. Ronald Reagan came to the 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 Press Club speech as “the Washington debut of a potential Presidential candidate.”

The talks gave the press opportunities to question speakers about past historical events with which they were intimately involved. Prompted by reporters’ questions, President Eisenhower offered recollections of differences between British and American war leaders on the advisability of launching what became the D-Day invasion. Ex-President Truman defended his decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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. Researchers visiting the Library’s Recorded Sound Research Center now can listen to any of the nearly 2,000 recordings of Press Club talks in the Library's collection.

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Using the Site

The Library of Congress makes these recordings available for scholarly and educational purposes only. Further use of the recordings by third-parties requires additional permission from the National Press Club (http://www.press.org/ External Link).

If you have more information about an item that you have seen on our websites, or if you are the copyright holder and believe our websites have not properly attributed your work or have used it without permission, please contact [email protected] with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.

Timings

Most of the Press Club talks begin with introductions of numerous dignitaries, invited guests, and the speaker, followed usually by a prepared talk and ending with a question-and-answer period. To enable users to navigate to these separate parts of the recordings, we have indicated on each speaker’s page timings that correspond to the beginning and ending points of the introductions, speeches, and Q&A sessions. For example, timings for Edward R. Murrow’s talk are listed as follows:

  • Introductions: 0:00-08:26
  • Speech: 08:33-34:19
  • Q&A: 34:20-01:03:59

This indicates that the introductions of guests and the speaker run for 8 minutes and 26 seconds from the beginning of the recording. Users interested only in Murrow’s speech can navigate to the point at which it starts, at 8 minutes and 33 seconds from the beginning.

We also have included listings of significant topics discussed in each talk and their start and end points. On occasion, we have indicated multiple start and end points for the same topic. For example, Edward R. Murrow addresses the damaging spread of news about recent attacks on Freedom Riders during both his talk and the Q&A period. The listing for this topic indicates two separate beginning and end points pertaining to this topic, the first at 20 minutes and 23 seconds in; the second, beginning at 39 minutes and 15 seconds:

  • Attacks on Freedom Riders (International Reach of News): 20:23-20:42; 39:15-40:19.

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Contact Information

Representatives of certain speakers have requested inclusion on this website of the following contact information:

James Baldwin
James Baldwin Estate
c/o Eileen Ahearn
137 West 71st Street, #4B
New York, NY 10023
(212) 873-5089

Leonard Bernstein
[email protected]

James H. Billington
Library of Congress
[email protected]

George H. W. Bush
Thomas Frechette
P. O. Box 79798
Houston, TX 77279-9798
(713) 686-1188

Jimmy Carter
Deanna Congileo
Director of Public Information
The Carter Center
One Copenhill
Atlanta, GA 30307
Fax: (404) 420-5145

Alfred Hitchcock
Leland H. Faust
445 Bust St., 5th floor
San Francisco, CA 94108-3725
Phone: (415) 421-9535
Fax: (415) 956-3231
[email protected]

Bob Hope
James Hardy
210 N. Pass Ave., #101
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 841-2020
[email protected]

Edward R. Murrow
Casey Murrow
Synergy Learning Inc.
P. O. Box 60
Brattleboro, VT 05302
Phone: (802) 257-2629
Fax: (802) 254-5233
[email protected]

Richard Nixon
Estate of Richard Nixon
c/o John H. Taylor
Executive Director
Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation
18001 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
(714) 993-5075

A. Philip Randolph
A. Philip Randolph Institute
815 16th Street, NW, 4th floor
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 508-3710
Fax: (202) 508-3711

Jonas Salk
The Jonas Salk Trust
3011 Webster Point Rd.
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: (206) 524-9754
Fax: (206) 524-9759
[email protected]
http://www.jonas-salk.org External Link 
Darrell Salk, Trustee

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
500 West U.S. Highway 24
Independence, MO 64050-1798
Phone: (816) 268-8200
[email protected]

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Acknowledgments

The Library of Congress gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the National Press Club (http://www.press.org/ External Link) to the realization of this web presentation and extends particular thanks to the Press Club’s archivist, Jeffrey Schlosberg.

The essays accompanying each talk were written by Alan Gevinson, who curated this web presentation. Topics for the talks and their timings were contributed by Tom Bober, the Library’s 2016 Teacher-in-Residence. Bryan Cornell is the webmaster. Gene DeAnna supervised the presentation. The talks were originally selected for inclusion by Jill Brett, former Public Affairs Officer, and Sheryl Cannady, Office of Communications.

In addition, we wish to thank the following former and current Library of Congress staff members for their contributions: Brian Bader, Samuel Brylawski, Alexa Catsambis, Robin Fanslow, Karen Fishman, Elizabeth Fulford, Mark Horowitz, Melisande Johnson, Rebecca Jones, Cheryl Lederle, Gregory Lukow, Karen Lund, Hope O’Keeffe, Gayle Osterberg, Hilary Ott, Thomas Pease, Lee Ann Potter, David Sager, Roberta I. Shaffer, Patrick Smetanick, Mark Sweeney, Michael Turpin, James Wolf, and Helena Zinkham.

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  October 18, 2016
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