National Press Club

Who holds the record for giving the most speeches at the National Press Club?

July 30, 2018 | By Gilbert Klein | gilbert.klein@me.com

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., relaxes with National Press Club President Gil Klein and Mark Johnson of the Media General News Service and a member of the Club’s Speakers Committee, before Kennedy’s Club Luncheon speech on Jan. 11, 1995.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., relaxes with National Press Club President Gil Klein and Mark Johnson of the Media General News Service and a member of the Club’s Speakers Committee, before Kennedy’s Club Luncheon speech on Jan. 11, 1995.

Ed. note: Looking for the report on Gil's book rap? Click here.

Who holds the record for appearing the most times at a National Press Club Luncheon?

When I was president in 1994, I believe the record holder was Israeli diplomat Abba Eban. When I introduced him on May 27, 1994, I noted that this was his ninth appearance at the Club’s podium, and the first time was Nov. 21, 1950, a month after I was born.

That was Eban’s last Club speech. What I didn’t know then, was that another speaker was gunning for the record.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, was making his fifth appearance my year; his first had been on Jan. 12, 1967. In that year, according to the Associated Press cutline of the photo taken that day, he spoke against the draft system that inducted tens of thousands of young men into the Army simply because they could not afford to go to college.

During his appearance on Jan. 11, 1995, after the Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades, Kennedy gave a rousing speech in defense of the liberal tradition of the Democratic Party, calling for Medicare for all, guaranteed coverage of college expenses and a higher minimum wage. “The last thing we need is two Republican parties,” he said.

The head table included his nephew, Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and CBS anchor Dan Rather. In private conversation before the speech, Sen. Kennedy made jokes about all of the weight he had put on. He said during the campaign, his staff was always looking for large podiums he could hide behind and they were pleased that the Club had the widest podium of all.

After my year, Kennedy went on to give seven more speeches, two in 2002 alone. Usually, he spoke in January, making his appearance the capstone for each Club president. By the time of his last appearance on Jan. 9, 2007, he had spoken 12 times.

This is another in a series provided by Club Historian Gil Klein. Dig down anywhere in the Club’s 110-year history, and you will find some kind of significant event in the history of the world, the nation, Washington and the Club itself. Many of these events were caught in illustrations that tell the stories.