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Richard N. Goodwin, Adviser to Democratic Presidents, Dies at 86

Richard N. Goodwin, a senior adviser and speechwriter for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson whose later work as an author, journalist and political consultant reflected his unswerving liberal outlook, died on Sunday at his home in Concord, Mass. He was 86.

Mr. Goodwin’s wife, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian, said he died after a brief bout with cancer.

The author of books and articles on public policy and a play, Mr. Goodwin was for years identified with the Kennedy clan and with leaders of the Democratic Party.

In 2000 he wrote the concession speech that Vice President Al Gore delivered after the Supreme Court halted the Florida recount in the presidential election, effectively handing the White House to George W. Bush. In 2004 he was a campaign consultant for the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, and in 2008 Barack Obama consulted him in his presidential campaign.

Mr. Goodwin called himself a voice of the 1960s, and with justification. He had written many of the memorable campaign and Oval Office speeches of the period, capturing the soaring hopes and lost dreams of two Democratic presidents, two senators who ran for the presidency and a nation caught up in nuclear perils, civil rights struggles, assassinations and divisions over the war in Vietnam.

In the Kennedy White House from 1961 to 1963, he specialized in Latin American affairs and was instrumental in creating the Alliance for Progress, an economic cooperation initiative between North and South America, which he named. He was deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs and directed the International Peace Corps, developing similar programs in other countries.

After Kennedy’s assassination, Mr. Goodwin joined the Johnson administration, advising the new president on domestic policies and writing many of his speeches, including one that outlined his signature legislative agenda, “the Great Society,” a phrase he coined, and an address to the nation that affirmed Johnson’s commitment to the civil rights movement and reiterated the words of its anthem, “We shall overcome.”

“Dick Goodwin was a lion of liberalism before it became a dirty word, crafting speeches for Democratic icons that define the politics and progressivism of the 21st Century,” Mark K. Updegrove, the president and chief executive of the LBJ Foundation, said in an email. “His ‘We Shall Overcome’ speech, L.B.J.’s plea for the Voting Rights Act in the wake of Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ resulting in direct


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