By Brent Koenigsman
On October 31st, Lincoln High not only lost an exemplary alum, the nation lost an exemplary speech writer, and the world lost an exemplary human being.
Ted Sorensen, famous for his work alongside President John F. Kennedy, died of a stroke at age 82. His legacy and impact is clear throughout the halls of Lincoln High. Our renovated theatre, which houses the proud LHS Drama program, bears his name.
A Nebraska native, Sorensen graduated from Lincoln High and studied Law at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. He went on to become John F. Kennedy’s speech writer and one of his chief advisors. John F. Kennedy’s legendary speeches and image of eloquence owed much to the words and counsel of Ted Sorensen.
Kennedy was even quoted saying Sorensen was his “intellectual blood bank.” Sorensen worked very closely with Kennedy on many of his most famous speeches including his inaugural address, in which he stated famously, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Lincoln High English Department Chair, Patsy Koch-Johns, remembers her conversations with him. “Those of us who talked to him in any way… all marveled at the intelligence and the wit of this incredible man.” When Koch-Johns heard the news about his passing she said she was, “incredibly sad”, but she went on saying, “ I was also grateful that Lincoln High had the opportunity to honor him before he passed.” She recalls taking him back to his Lincoln home and that he kept saying “this is probably the last time I’ll ever be here again.”
Sorensen’s life serves as an inspiration to every Lincoln High student. Koch-Johns said that, “we all need to be able to look at somebody and say some day I can be like that. To know that Ted Sorensen sat in an Oral Communications class, played in the Lincoln High band, strutted the Lincoln High boards before they were renovated, was a writer in the Scribe magazine, did all the things that you guys do here at Lincoln High and managed to go on and be the counselor of one of the greatest Presidents in all of history has to be an inspiration to students.”
The school plans to honor his legacy by putting his picture and quotes in front of the theatre. Koch-Johns said, “I hope that people for a very long time, when they come to our theatre, will want to know who that is and will find out that Lincoln High graduates great minds.” She hopes some important lessons can be learned from his accomplishments. “You don’t know when you’re destined for greatness, and the second lesson I think would be, is take advantage of the education that’s offered to you.”
Ted Sorensen had a profound effect on the nation, the world, and uniquely on our historic school.
His legacy will live on through his words, speeches, achievements, and the teaching and learning that takes place at Lincoln High School.