FRONT PAGES | State of the Union, 2011

President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he veered his agenda to the center of the American political spectrum, outlined a strategy to solve the employment crisis and called for national unity in the pursuit of better, leaner government and greater innovation and education, made newspaper front pages across the land today. Here’s a gallery:

GALLERY | 50 years after: The Kennedy inauguration

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address.

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address.

Fifty years ago today, John F. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who won the White House by the smallest popular-vote margin in history, was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States.

The event, which included a reading from memory of “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost and a delivery of the Star-Spangled Banner by Marian Anderson, is perhaps the best-remembered inauguration in American history. Kennedy’s 14-minute speech, in which he charged Americans to answer their nation’s call to service, sits near the top of a list of spectacular American orations. Kennedy said:

… Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. …

As Todd S. Purdum writes in Vanity Fair this month, the day sent a “tidal wave of glamour, promise, and high spirits” across Washington and the nation. No inauguration, before or since, could be argued to be as glamorous or filled with optimism as Kennedy’s.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has assembled a terrific website that gathers together materials related to the dawn of the Thousand Days. And, to boot, they’ve digitized the bulk of their Kennedy Administration archive.

Here’s a collection of LIFE photos from the inauguration:

FRONT PAGES | Cuomo, Duffy take reins in Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy went right to work in New York’s capital after taking office at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Cuomo, the state’s 56th governor, and Duffy, the 76th lieutenant governor, held a staff meeting first thing on Saturday morning and took immediate steps to make the transactions of state government more open and transparent. Cuomo ordered concrete barriers installed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks removed from the Capitol’s State Street entrance. He also reopened the Hall of Governors to the public; it had been closed during the tenure of former Gov. George Pataki for security reasons.

After an official swearing-in in the Capitol’s War Room that was marked by austerity, Cuomo delivered remarks that set his agenda. Albany, he said, would no longer be in the hands of special interests and lobbyists. A property-tax cap is a must and working to further streamline state government is also a priority, he said.

Here’s a gallery of front pages from Sunday’s New York papers:

FRONT PAGES | Scrambling after WikiLeaks

WikiLeaksToday’s New York Post.

A number of American and Canadian newspapers devoted front-page real estate to reaction from Washington and Ottawa about the recent release of massive cache of American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. The cables — some 250,000 — detail America’s foreign policy in a number of areas, including the war-torn Middle East and Southeast Asia.

David Brooks, writing in today’s Times, examines the difficulties journalists face in covering the release, which has been decried by the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called the disclosure “an attack on the international community” and its culture of diplomatic rapport.

Here’s a gallery of front pages:

GREAT HOUSES | Kykuit, seat of the Rockefellers

KykuitKykuit, the epic seat of the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills.

“It’s what God would have built, if only He had the money.”

At the peak of the Hudson Valley fall, Mrs. F. indulged me and agreed to spend the better part of an October Saturday touring Kykuit, the Rockefeller seat in Pocantico Hills.

The estate, owned by New York’s first family since 1893, is a sprawling compound that sits high above the Hudson and the villages of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Its apex is a forty-room classical revival manor house that was home first to John D. Rockefeller Sr. and subsequently by his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and his grandson, Nelson A. Rockefeller, storied governor of New York and the 41st vice president of the United States.

Work on the mansion’s first form took six years to complete. The house’s final rendering was completed by Junior in 1913 with architecture from Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano. The six-story structure includes two basement levels. The gracious interiors, which I found remarkable for their simplicity, were designed by Ogden Codman Jr., who co-authored the seminal Decoration of Houses with Edith Wharton in 1898.

Elsewhere on the estate, called the Park, are the homes of David Rockefeller, Happy Rockefeller, and a massive Tudor-revival Playhouse that’s still used as a club house by the Rockefeller. A nine-hole golf course, a massive orangerie and a multi-story Coach Barn and about 70 other outbuildings and houses round the Park out. The landscaping is as remarkable as the manorhouse and the other structures. Initially begun by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, the work was completed by William Welles Bosworth, who designed the extensive terraces, fountains and gardens that surround the house.

HappyHappy Rockefeller plays with her son, Nelson Rockefeller Jr., in a fountain at Kykuit in 1965. This image was taken by epic LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Though the grand setting is itself worthy of a visit, Nelson Rockefeller’s extensive art collection is the real gem at Kykuit. A roster of artists whose works adorn Kykuit is too long for inclusion here, but the Governor’s subterranean galleries, which feature some of the best artists of the 20th century, are among the finest I’ve ever visited. Warhol, Picasso and Calder are all accounted for. The Governor also interspersed a vast collection of sculpture on the property.

As if that weren’t all terribly charming, there’s a fantastic collection of Rockefeller automobiles, carriages and coaches in the Coach barn. Among these are the Governor’s 1949 Crosley Hot Shot and several Lincolns he used during his four terms as New York’s chief executive.

The Park is a frequent cultural reference; the Governor’s May 4, 1963 marriage to Happy Rockefeller was mentioned during the third season of “Mad Men.”

Tours of the home are conducted seasonally, from the beginning of May to the beginning of November. The 2011 season opens Sunday, May 8. While the home is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, tours are run by Historic Hudson Valley, a network of historic Hudson Valley homes that was founded in 1951 by Junior. Tickets should be purchased in advance and tours start out from the adjacent Phillipsburg Manor.

Here’s a gallery from our trip:

Kykuit — Historick Hudson Valley
(914) 631-8200 Monday through Friday or (914) 631-3992 on weekends
Pocantico Hills, New York.

CLIP | Buckley v. Vidal, 1968

FRONT PAGES | Electorate makes a turn to the right

Good morning.

I’ve had my fill of this election, but we’ll be living with its consequences for the next days, weeks and years. Some highlights:

• Andrew Cuomo was elected governor of New York by a decisive margin, defeating Buffalo developer and political neophyte Carl Paladino.

• The Republican party seized control of the House. In New York, Republicans Nan Hayworth and Chris Gibson toppled incumbent Democrats John Hall and Scott Murphy.

• Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, high-profile Tea Party candidates, won Kentucky and Florida seats in the U.S. Senate.

• Democrat Richard Blumenthal defeated Linda McMahon, a Republican, in the Connecticut race for U.S. Senate; that state’s gubernatorial race between Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Tom Foley is too close to call.

• Christine O’Donnell, to the relief of many it would seem, was handily defeated by Jeff Coons in the race for Delaware’s U.S. Senate seat.

Here’s a look at front pages from around the nation:

LIVES | Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy adviser and speechwriter, 1928-2010

SorensenPresident-elect John F. Kennedy reviews documents with his aide and speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, in Decmber 1960. This photo was taken by Paul Schutzer is presented courtesy of the LIFE magazine photo archive.

Theodore C. Sorensen, speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy and author of the most memorable words in 20th-century American politics, died Sunday in Manhattan. He was 82 and had been suffering complications from a stroke he endured a week ago.

Born in 1928 in Lincoln, Neb., Sorensen first went to work for then Sen. Kennedy in 1953 after having earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Nebraska. He went on to play a critical role in drafting sections of Kennedy’s much-praised “Profiles in Courage,” published in 1956. That book proved a stepping-stone toward a four-year march toward the White House.

Sorensen was a key player on the Kennedy team in 1960 and was the architect of the 1961 inaugural address, one of the finest ever written, that declared “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

After the assasination, Sorensen practiced law and remained active in Democratic politics. He authored a 783-page memoir of the administration that was titled, simply, “Kennedy.” In 1976, he declined an offer from President Carter to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. He was an earlier supporter of President Obama’s and had recently expressed worries over the current administration’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Here’s a small gallery of Sorensen images from the LIFE magazine archive:

ROOMS | Obama’s Oval Office

The jury in our house is hung: Mrs. F. likes the renovated Oval Office and I don’t. As the Daily News reports — and this is a good thing — much of the renovation draws on materials made in New York.

For views of the renovated Oval, visit the White House Museum.

What’s in:
• Striped wallpaper, which I imagine is designed to echo the beautiful floor installed on Laura Bush’s watch, has arrived. I don’t think the room has been papered since it took its current shape in the West Wing renovation of 1934. The paper was manufactured in Amagansett.

• Curvy couches that echo the Ford, Carter and Reagan ovals are new. Featuring a cotton fabric woven in Pennsylvania, they seem a bit informal to me. At least they were manufactured in New York.

• Leather is also in, replacing the damask upholstery on the two armchairs in front of the fire place.

• An oddly modern coffee table, made in New York of walnut.

• A new rug, one feature I do like, that features quotations from both Roosevelts, Lincoln, Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The carpet was woven by the Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Mich., which also manufactured the rug used during the Clinton administration.

What’s out:
• Laura Bush’s much-loved sunburst rug

What stayed:
The Resolute Desk
• The Remingtons
• The Washington portrait
Childe Hassam’s “Avenue in the Rain”
• The distinctive sidechairs that have been a part of the room since FDR’s presidency

Here’s my earlier look at the Oval Office’s evolution.

FRONT PAGES | Sen. Stevens dead in plane crash

Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the body’s history, was one of five people killed when a plane headed for a fishing expedition crashed Monday in a remote section of southwest Alaska.

Stevens, 86, was one of nine people aboard the plane. Stevens entered the Senate in 1968 and served six terms. A moderate Republican who unapologetically fueled federal funds into Alaska, he was found guilty by a federal jury of corruption in 2008. While the verdict was subsequently tossed, Stevens lost his seat.

Sean O’Keefe, former administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was also aboard and survived the crash.

News of Stevens’ death made front pages across the nation, but given other news — key primaries were held in a range of states — it was often teased to inside placement. Here’s a selection of front pages:

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