William R. Smyser Book Presentation

Kennedy and the Berlin Wall: "A Hell of a Lot Better than a War"

Thursday, October 29, 2009, 4:00 pm
Room LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress
This event is free and open to the public; no tickets are needed. It is sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress and the GHI. The program will begin with an introduction by Dr. Martin Klimke, Research Fellow at the GHI, and will feature commentary by Dr. Robert Gerald Livingston, Visiting Research Fellow at the GHI.

Kennedy and the Berlin Wall recounts the full story of the Berlin Crisis. Drawing on his own experience as an American diplomat in Germany, and on recently opened Soviet, East German, and American archives, Smyser explains how the fate of one city affected politics on a national and global scale.

Smyser's compelling mix of documentary resources and personal recollections makes the book unique. He leaves his readers with illuminating portraits of the politicians and diplomats involved in this drama - most importantly, the two main actors, Kennedy and Khrushchev, but also DeGaulle for the French, Macmillan for the British, and Adenauer for the West Germans.

William R. Smyser is the former Henry Alfred Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress; he is currently an adjunct professor at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University and also teaches at the U.S. Foreign Service Institute. An expert on the politics and economy of Europe, he has worked for the U.S. government, the United Nations, and in foundation management and academia. He served with U.S. forces in Germany in the 1950s, worked with General Lucius Clay in Berlin in the 1960s, and served as a political counselor at the American embassy in Bonn.

Smyser has held a number of senior executive positions at the White House and was a senior member of Henry Kissinger's National Security Council staff. His books include: The Humanitarian Conscience: Caring for Others in the Age of Terror (2003), How Germans Negotiate: Logical Goals, Practical Solutions (2002), and From Yalta to Berlin: the Cold War Struggle over Germany (1999).