On November 5, 1967, Meet the Press celebrated its 20th anniversary on television. The guest was one of the era’s most famous politicians, George Frost Kennan. By the time of the program, Kennan had retired from decades as a diplomat, ambassador, and foreign policy adviser to teach at Princeton University. His book on his years of service, “Memoirs 1925-1950,” was published the day after Meet the Press, and would later win Kennan his second Pulitzer Prize. He had already won the Pulitzer for his 1956 history “Russia Leaves the War.” More than forty years later, Kennan would again be a headliner in the Pulitzer announcements: The 2012 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished biography went to John Lewis Gaddis’ "George F. Kennan: An American Life.” (You can read the Pulitzer entry on Gaddis’ book here).
That 1967 day, the Meet the Press discussion focused on another milestone: the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union. Kennan, the former American ambassador to that country, had been one of the key architects of the United States’ stance during the Cold War, so much so that he was known as the “father of containment” – the policy America adopted towards the Soviet Union in the 1940s. MTP panelist Lawrence Spivak began the show by pressing Kennan about his recent praise of the Communist regime’s accomplishments over the past fifty years, asking “Would you deny that the accomplishments were worth the cost in human freedom and life and suffering?” You can watch Kennan’s response in the first part of the clip below.
On Meet the Press, Kennan reflected on the his twenty-five years of diplomatic service, particularly the challenges and criticism he had faced on his stances toward the Soviet Union. NBC News’ Elie Abel ended Meet the Press by asking, “In the light of your own long experience in frustration, would you advise a young man to go into the Foreign Service of the United States today?” Kennan replied that if the young man was ambitious and competitive, he should not enter the foreign service. But, he said, “If he wants to live abroad, keep his eyes open and broaden his horizons intellectually, then I would say, go right ahead.” Watch the clip below for more of George F. Kennan’s discussion of his career and the Cold War.
Every Monday, Betsy Fischer - the Executive Producer of Meet the Press - poses a trivia question on Twitter about the 64 years of history making moments and guests on Meet The Press. Check back every Tuesday for answers and video clips!