CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Robert Boyce, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from Sutton, wanted to hear Ted Sorensen speak Monday at the state Culture Center.
Sorensen, President John F. Kennedy's main political adviser, helped commemorate Kennedy's historic victory in the May 10, 1960, Democratic primary -- a critical factor in winning him the party's nomination for president.
"My teacher told us about Mr. Sorensen. I thought it would be really neat," Robert said. "But my mother told me I would have to think up a question to ask.
"So I did. I asked him, 'What was the hardest speech you had to write?'"
Sorensen's response: "The speech about the Cuban thing." The Cuban missile crisis in 1962, sparked by the Soviet Union sending missiles to Cuba, led the United States and the USSR to the brink of nuclear war.
During his speech Monday, Sorenson asked people crowded into the Culture Center, "Why did John F. Kennedy enter the West Virginia primary with so much at stake? In early 1960, almost nobody gave John Kennedy a chance."
Kennedy pioneered the use of private political polls, Sorensen said, hiring Louis Harris to do a poll in December 1959.
"That first poll showed Kennedy had a 60 to 40 percent lead in West Virginia. But he also had to run in the Wisconsin primary."
Kennedy won that April 5 primary, 56 percent to 44 percent.
"When the Wisconsin primary was held, it was treated by pollsters and the media as a religious contest," Sorenson said. "The press said Kennedy won the Catholic districts. The religious issue became the primary issue.