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It was days before the bicentennial Christmas. The year had been a difficult one for the United States. The Watergate scandal and the fall of Saigon left a sour taste in the mouth of the body politic, flavoring public opinion against the government. A deep recession continued to stall the economy. The wealth and power that propped up the postwar generation seemed more tenuous than ever.
At the moment, though, Daniel Boorstin was elated. The eminent historian had moved from a directorship at the Smithsonian to that of the Library of Congress less than a year earlier. He now made his most important announcement yet. The National Security Adviser and Secretary of State for the previous eight years, Henry Alfred Kissinger, had agreed to donate his papers to the Library. Obtaining the Kissinger Papers was nothing less than a coup for the national Librarian. The collection of memos, documents, and telephone transcripts were “the most important collection of papers concerning American foreign policy that exist in this century”, he told the press.
Boorstin and Kissinger had developed a friendly professional acquaintance in the previous half decade, after the historian gave Kissinger and a guest a private tour of the Smithsonian in 1971. The two sought each other out for meals in Geneva, Washington, and New York and exchanged friendly notes after Boorstin won the Pulitzer Prize and Kissinger was promoted to Secretary
of State in 1973. After the bequest of the Kissinger Papers, they continued to socialize. The “whole Boorstin clan” even spent Christmas with Kissinger and his wife in 1979 and 1982 in their Washington, D.C. home.