Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Thurston Clarke (page 3)
 Talking with
Thurston Clarke
page 1
page 2
page 3

Do you think this was Kennedy’s greatest speech, or was it the speech in Berlin in 1963 when he ended by saying, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.”?
The inaugural was his greatest speech. It is the one that changed lives, and it will be remembered long after anyone heard it has died.
In your opinion what was Kennedy’s lasting contribution to America?
   The Peace Corps was his most concrete and lasting contribution.
Some practical questions. How long did the book take to write?
   The writing and research took about two years. I compartmentalized the research as much as possible, dividing it into topics and periods of time such as the transition, the ten days before the inauguration, and inauguration day. After I had more or less finished the research on one topic of period I wrote a rough draft, while continuing research into other areas.
Thurston, how do you write and who edits your work?
I work on a computer and on long legal pads, depending on what kind of material I’m writing. Some of the passages and chapters may go through as many as a dozen drafts, others through five or six. It depends on how long it takes to get it right. I write about five/six hours a day, more when I’m approaching a deadline, less when I’ve just finished something. I have a studio and my wife edits my drafts.
What’s next for you?
I am currently conducting research for A Prayer For Our Country, a narrative account of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for the presidency.
Where does the title come from?
The title comes from the impromptu speech that Robert Kennedy made to a largely black audience in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, just hours after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. In that speech Kennedy said, “So I shall ask you tonight to return home — to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”
Why this topic for a book?
Because in his primary campaign for the presidency Robert Kennedy gives us a model of politics at its most honest, moral, and passionate, a model that we could do well to study today.
Thanks, Thurston, and good luck with Ask Not and your next book.
Thanks, John.
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