Special Counsel to the President for Communications;
Director, Office of Communications
Press Secretary's Office


Gergen served in the Ford administration as special counsel to the president for communications and subsequently as director of the Office of Communications. His files reflect a broad spectrum of responsibilities including speechwriting, preparing the president for the campaign debates, overseeing the preparation of the president's question and answer briefing books, scheduling surrogate campaign speakers, handling media relations and various campaign-related special assignments.

12.4 linear feet (ca. 24,800 pages)

Gerald R. Ford (accession number 77-19)

Open. Some items are temporarily restricted under terms of the donor's deed of gift, a copy of which is available on request, or under National Archives and Records Administration general restrictions (36 CFR 1256).

Gerald R. Ford donated to the United States of America his copyrights in all of his unpublished writings in National Archives collections. The copyrights to materials written by other individuals or organizations are presumed to remain with them. Works prepared by U.S. Government employees as part of their official duties are in the public domain.

Prepared by Leesa Tobin, May 1987
[s:\bin\findaid\gergen, david - files.doc]


David R. Gergen

1942 - Born, Durham, North Carolina

1963 - A.B., Yale University

1967 - LL.B., Harvard School of Law

1967-70 - United States Naval Reserve

1971 - Assistant to Raymond K. Price, White House editorial staff

1973-Nov. 1974 - Special assistant to the president, writing and research

Nov. 1974-Dec. 1975 - Special consultant to Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon

Dec. 1975-Apr. 1976 - Special assistant to Chief of Staff, Richard Cheney

Apr.-July 1976 - Special counsel to the president for communications

July 1976-Jan. 1977 - Director, Office of Communications

1977-80 - Resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute and managing editor of Public Opinion

1981 - Special assistant to the President

1981-83 - Assistant to the President for communications

1983-85 - Resident fellow, Harvard University Institute of Politics

1984-85 - Visiting fellow, American Enterprise Institute

1985-86 - Managing editor for national and international news, U.S. News and World Report

1986- Editor, U.S. News and World Report


David Gergen, a former Nixon speechwriter, as a speechwriter for Secretary of the Treasury, William Simon in December returned to the White House as special assistant to Ford's chief of staff, Richard Cheney, leaving his position in the Treasury Department 1975. His title was changed to Special Counsel to the President for Communications and until July 1976 his primary responsibility was drafting presidential speeches and statements. Gergen was independent of the main speechwriting staff headed by Robert Hartmann. In July 1976, Gergen replaced Margita White as director of the Office of Communications and restructured the office to reflect its augmented responsibilities.

Discussed below under separate headings are the scope and content of the Gergen files, the organization and functions of the White House Office of Communications, and related materials in the Ford Library.

Scope and Content of the Gergen Files
The Gergen files reflect his responsibilities during the presidential campaign, extensive speechwriting and editing involvement, and his routine administrative responsibilities for the Office of Communication.

The presidential speeches file includes drafts and final edited versions of speeches Gergen produced at Cheney's direction, frequently as possible alternatives to the drafts prepared by Robert Hartmann's editorial office. In some cases Gergen's was the only draft on such significant subjects as national security and busing. Although Gergen's speechwriting duties ended when he became director of the communications office he was still involved in composing broad campaign themes from which speeches were developed.

Gergen's office assisted in preparing Ford for the presidential debates, and the files include a significant amount of background material compiled for that purpose. The office was also responsible for compiling The Ford Presidency: A Portrait of the First Two Years. Gergen drafted much of the text which is scattered throughout the general subject file.

Other campaign-related materials include a detailed log of the Democratic Convention, organization and scheduling of the presidential "advocate" program, planning for the Ford-Carter debates, and a file of media requests from selected states. More routine materials include copies of the presidential briefing books, White House press releases, and White House briefing e Gergen was responsible for gathering names of nominees and conducting surveys of White House staff opinions on possible Medal of Freedom winners. Although the bulk of these selections were made at the end of the administration, Gergen's files reflect his responsibility with the matter beginning when he returned to the White House in December 1975.

Several areas are not well documented in this collection. The first is the large number of meetings Gergen attended. Only scattered notes by Gergen on his discussions appear in the files. A second undocumented area is Gergen's liaison activity with the President Ford Committee. Lastly, while there are some memoranda related to the administration of the Office of Communications the researcher will have difficulty in tracing the office's restructuring and some of its augmented responsibilities under Gergen's direction.

Organization and Functions of the White House Office of Communications
Created during the Nixon administration with Herbert G. Klein as its first director, the communications office sought to provide almost 3,000 editors and broadcasters outside of Washington with copies of speeches, reports and other information. It coordinated administration public relations campaigns, acted as White House contact for radio-television networks and independent stations, supervised public affairs activities in the federal agencies, arranged press briefings and set up interviews between newsmen and public officials.

In 1974 the communications office became deeply involved in the White House public relations response to the growing Watergate scandal. The office was then headed by Kenneth Clawson who departed shortly after Gerald Ford became president. Gerald Warren, deputy press secretary throughout the Nixon years, then took over the position. When Warren resigned in June 1975, Margita E. White, an assistant press secretary to Ron Nessen, was named director.

The post-Watergate responsibilities of the Office of Communications were considerably diminished. When Ford became president thought was given to disbanding the office. It was maintained but became an arm of Nessen's press operation with considerably fewer employees and less responsibility. The office occasionally mailed out informational material to newspapers and arranged for administration officials to speak to groups around the country. Included as part of the communications office function was the compilation of the president's daily news summary and the president's briefing book for media encounters.

When Margita White left to become a member of the Federal Communications Commission in July 1976 the office was reconstructed and Gergen was named director. Although organizationally a part of the press office, the office functioned independently with Gergen reporting directly to Chief of Staff Cheney. The office was also given a considerably broader mandate. It was responsible for communicating to the public the president's achievements during the election year and served as White House liaison with the President Ford Committee and federal departments. Under Gergen's direction the office continued to carry out its regular responsibilities of drafting the president's daily news summary, performing editorial and research functions, scheduling surrogate speakers ("advocates") for the president and arranging press interviews with administration officials.

Related Materials (May 1987)
Other available collections on speechwriting include White House Central Files category SP (Speeches), the files of Paul Theis and Robert Orben of the editorial staff, the Reading Copies of Presidential Speeches, and the files of Counsellor Robert Hartmann.

Material concerning Gergen's campaign-related activities appear in the files of Richard Cheney and Ron Nessen. Other collections containing material on the 1976 presidential campaign are described on the Ford Library handout "The 1976 Presidential Election: A Guide to Manuscript Collections Available for Research."

While the files of Gergen's predecessor Margita White are currently unprocessed and unavailable for research approximately 1,600 pages of material she prepared for Ron Nessen is accessible in the Papers of Ron Nessen.


General Subject File, 1974-77.  (Boxes 1-11, 4.4 linear feet)
Memoranda to and from White House staff members; schedules and schedule proposals; reports; briefing papers; occasional drafts of speeches, statements and articles; correspondence with publishers of newspapers and magazines; press releases; question and answer briefing sheets; and publications and clippings. These materials concern the president's views on domestic and foreign topics during the 1976 presidential campaign; planning for the campaign and debates; compilation of the booklet, The Ford Presidency: A Portrait of the First Two Years; administration of the Office of Communications and liaison with various media representatives. Major topics include defense, the Democratic and Republican conventions, the economy, Federal Election Commission, 1976 State of the Union Address, and proposed legislation.

Arranged alphabetically by subject.

View container list for this series

Presidential Speeches and Statements File, 1975-76.  (Boxes 12-14, 1.2 linear feet)
Speech case files containing drafts by Gergen and other speechwriters, memoranda from White House staff and others outlining suggestions on theme and content or comments on drafts, briefing papers and background information. Included are only those selected speeches with which Gergen was involved. The most significant files relate to a speech on national security given to the Daughters of the American Revolution, a special message on busing and several legislative veto message.

Arranged chronologically by date of the speech.

View container list for this series

Debate Background File, 1976.  (Boxes 15-17, 1.2 linear feet)
A subject file of background material concerning presidential candidate Jimmy Carter's views on a variety of domestic and foreign issues. Compiled by Gergen's staff for use in preparing President Ford for the debates. Included are clippings, press wire stories, media pool reports, and speeches. Also included are occasional suggested responses to possible Carter challenges.

Arranged alphabetically by subject.

View container list for this series

Presidential Briefing Books File, 1976.  (Boxes 18-24, 2.8 linear feet)
Briefing books prepared for the President by members of the Press Office staff in conjunction with press conferences, media interviews and trips. The briefing materials include question and answer briefing sheets, memoranda and guidance provided by the White House staff. Annotations by President Ford appear occasionally, but the bulk of the president's copies of these briefing books are located in the files of James B. Shuman, editor of the briefing books from April 1975 until July 1976.

Arranged chronologically.

View container list for this series

Medal of Freedom Chronological File, [1945] 1974-77. (Box 25, 0.4 linear feet)
Memoranda between Gergen and White House staff concerning the selection of Medal of Freedom award nominees and eventual award winners. Included are compilations of the votes each of the nominees received and transmittals to the president for final selection. Also included is extensive background information on the Medal of Freedom award itself.

Arranged chronologically.

View container list for this series

Medal of Freedom Name File, 1973-76.  (Boxes 26-29, 1.6 linear feet)
File of nominees for the Medal of Freedom. Many had been nominated during the Nixon administration and remained under consideration during the subsequent administration. Included in the files for some nominees is background on their accomplishments and letters of support from the public and government officials.

Arranged alphabetically by name of nominee.

View container list for this series

Selected States Media File, 1976. (Boxes 30-31, 0.8 linear feet)
File compiled during the 1976 presidential campaign concerning media opportunities extended to the president in selected states. Included are requests from television, radio, and the print media.

Arranged alphabetically by state.

View container list for this series


Box 1 - General Subject File

  • Abortion (1)-(2)
  • Advertising Council
  • Advertising Council - Printed Material
  • Advocate Program - Organization and Scheduling (1)-(2)
  • Advocate Program - Pending Invitations
  • Africa
  • Amnesty
  • Arab Boycott
  • Aviation Noise

Box 2 - General Subject File

  • Baroody, William J.
  • Blacks
  • Cambodia
  • Campaign - General Strategy
  • Campaign - Q and A Briefing Sheets
  • Carter, Jimmy - Quotebook (1)-(3)
  • Carter, Jimmy - Record as Governor of Georgia
  • Carter, Jimmy - Speeches
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Citizens Band Radio
  • Concorde
  • Congress - Legislative Activity

Box 3 - General Subject File

  • Congressional Relations
  • Crime
  • Debates (1)-(2)
  • Defense - B-1 Bomber
  • Defense - Budget
  • Defense - Speeches and Statements
  • Democratic Convention - Media Coverage - General
  • Democratic Convention - Platform
  • Democratic Convention - Television Logs (1)-(4)
  • Dole, Robert
  • Drug Abuse

Box 4 - General Subject File

  • Economy (1)-(2)
  • Editorial Endorsements
  • Employment/Unemployment
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Farm Policy

Box 5 - General Subject File

  • Federal Election Commission (1)-(2)
  • Florida
  • Footwear Imports
  • Foreign Policy (1)-(2)
  • Foreign Policy - Press Release Excerpts
  • Gergen, David - Invitations
  • Gun Control
  • Health Care
  • Highway Trust Funds
  • Integrity in Government
  • Interior Department
  • Iowa
  • Jackson, Henry M.
  • Kissinger, Henry

Box 6 - General Subject File

  • Magazine Articles - Campaign (1)-(2)
  • Marsh, John
  • Mayaguez Crisis - Hearing Transcript
  • Middle East
  • Mondale, Walter
  • Morgan Guaranty Survey
  • Natural Gas Deregulation
  • News Calendar
  • Nixon, Richard M.
  • Office of Communication - Administration

Box 7 - General Subject File

  • Olympics
  • Panama Canal
  • Political Questionnaires
  • Postcard Voter Registration
  • President - A Portrait of the First Two Years (1)-(2)
  • President - Endorsements of Republican Candidates
  • President - Family
  • President - Investigations
  • President - Misc. Speeches/Statements/Messages
  • President - Scheduling (1)-(2)
  • President - Travel - France
  • President - Travel - Pacific Basin

Box 8 - General Subject File

  • President - Vetoes
  • Presidential Citizen's Medal
  • Presidential Management Initiatives
  • Public Opinion Polls
  • Regulatory Reform
  • Religion
  • Republican Convention - Background
  • Republican Convention - Memoranda
  • Schlesinger, James R.
  • Schools
  • Senior Citizens
  • Simon, William (1)-(2)
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr
  • Speech Ideas

Box 9 - General Subject File

  • State Events - Possible Campaign Appearances (1)-(3)
  • State of the Union - 1976 (1)-(3)
  • Swine Flu
  • Television - Campaign Coverage
  • Urban Policy
  • Vandenberg, Arthur
  • Veterans
  • Vietnam
  • White House Press Briefings
  • White House Press Releases, 8/6-26/76

Box 10 - General Subject File

  • White House Press Releases, 8/27/76-10/19/76

Box 11 - General Subject File

  • White House Press Releases, 10/20/76-11/30/76

Box 12 - Presidential Speeches and Statements File

  • 1975/12/22 Energy Policy and Conservation Act Signing Statement
  • 1975/12/23 Revenue Readjustment Act of 1975 Signing Statement
  • 1976/01/02 Common Situs Picketing Veto Message (1)-(2)
  • 1976/02/17 Press Conference Opening Statement on Intelligence
  • 1976/02/28 Naturalization Ceremony
  • 1976/03/06 Urbana, Illinois Chamber of Commerce
  • 1976/03/09 Association of General Contractors
  • 1976/03/09 Veterans of Foreign Wars Dinner for Members of Congress
  • 1976/03/15 Midwest Radio Tapes
  • 1976/03/26 President Ford Committee Fundraising Luncheon
  • 1976/03/31 Senate - House Dinner
  • 1976/04/05 Swearing-In of Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hope
  • 1976/04/06 Lyndon Johnson Memorial Grove Dedication
  • 1976/04/09 Law Day
  • 1976/04/10 Press Conference Opening Statement

Box 13 - Presidential Speeches and Statements File

  • 1976/04/21 Daughters of the American Revolution (1)-(7)
  • 1976/04/26 Possible "Stump Speech"
  • 1976/04/30 Texas (1)-(2)
  • 1976/05/02-03 Indiana
  • 1976/05/03 Alabama
  • 1976/05/05 Conference on Ethnicity and Neighborhood

Box 14 - Presidential Speeches and Statements File

  • 1976/05/08 University of Nebraska Commencement (1)-(2)
  • 1976/05/11 Televised Appeal
  • 1976/05/11 Federal Election Commission Act Amendments of 1976 Signing Statement
  • 1976/05/12 Michigan Arrival
  • 1976/05/13 American Jewish Committee Dinner
  • 1976/05/29 Statement on Busing (1)-(2)
  • 1976/06/24 Special Message to Congress on Busing (1)-(2)
  • 1976/06/22 Jaycees Convention
  • 1976/07/04 Independence Hall
  • 1976/07/05 Public Works Bill Veto Message
  • 1976/07/21 Public Works Employment Act of 1976 Signing Statement
  • 1976/10/19 Remarks on Receiving the Golden Helmet Award from American Veterans of World War II
  • 1976/10/28 Radio Address on Peace

Box 15 - Debate Background File

  • Abortion
  • Agriculture
  • Allied Relations
  • Antitrust Policy
  • Busing
  • Cities
  • China
  • Crime
  • Criticisms of Ford
  • Defense Policy
  • Developing Nations
  • Eastern Europe
  • Education
  • Elderly
  • Energy
  • Environment

Box 16 - Debate Background File

  • Federal Budget
  • Foreign Policy (1)-(2)
  • Foreign Trade
  • Government Growth
  • Government Spending
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Human Rights
  • Inflation
  • Integrity
  • Jobs
  • Middle East
  • Monetary Policy
  • National Economic Planning

Box 17 - Debate Background File

  • Nuclear Policy (1)-(2)
  • Presidential Qualifications
  • Regulatory Reform
  • Soviet Union
  • Tax Reform
  • Terrorism
  • Unemployment
  • United Nations
  • Vietnam War
  • Welfare Reform

Box 18 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/01/12 Time Editors
  • 1976/02/03 Walter Cronkite
  • 1976/02/05 The Christian Science Monitor
  • 1976/02/07-08 New Hampshire
  • 1976/02/10 "Budge Breakfast"
  • 1976/02/16 Press Conference
  • 1976/02/19-20 New Hampshire (1)-(4)
  • 1976/02/28-29 Florida (1)-(2)
  • 1976/03/12 Chicago Council of Foreign Relations
  • 1976/03/13 North Carolina (1)-(2)
  • 1976/03/26-27 California (1)-(2)

Box 19 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/03/27 Wisconsin (1)-(2)
  • 1976/04/02-03 Wisconsin
  • 1976/04/09-10 Texas (1)-(2)
  • 1976/04/22-23 Indiana (1)-(2)
  • 1976/04/23 Georgia
  • 1976/04/27-30 Louisiana and Texas (1)-(2)

Box 20 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/05/03 Alabama
  • 1976/05/07-08 Nebraska (1)-(2)
  • 1976/05/12 Michigan (1)-(2)
  • 1976/05/14 Tennessee and Kentucky (1)-(2)
  • 1976/05/20 Kentucky Media
  • 1976/05/26 Ohio
  • 1976/05/28 The Newhouse Newspapers
  • 1976/07/16-17 Connecticut
  • 1976/07/19 Press Conference
  • 1976/07/22 Readers' Digest (1)-(2)

Box 21 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/07/30 Mississippi
  • 1976/09/06 Harry Reasoner
  • 1976/09/09 Press Conference
  • 1976/09/11 TV Guide
  • 1976/09/13 Today Show
  • 1976/09/25-26 Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana (1)-(3)
  • 1976/09/29 Newsweek
  • 1976/10/05-08 California (1)-(2)

Box 22 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/10/08-09 Oklahoma and Texas (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/12-13 New York and New Jersey (1)-(3)
  • 1976/10/14 Press Conference (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/15-16 Iowa, Illinois, Missouri (1)-(3)

Box 23 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/10/22-23 Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/23-24 California (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/25 Washington, and Oregon (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/25-27 - Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey (1)-(3)

Box 24 - Presidential Briefing Books File

  • 1976/10/28 Indiana and Ohio (1)-(2)
  • 1976/10/29 Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas (1)-(3)
  • 1976/10/29-30 New York (1)-(2)
  • 1976/11/01-02 Michigan

Box 25 - Medal of Freedom Chronological File

  • 1945-74
  • 1/1975-12/1975
  • 1/1976-5/1976
  • 6/1976
  • 7/1976-12/1976
  • Undated Background
  • 12/1/76 (1)
  • 12/1/76 (2)
  • 12/2/76-12/7/76
  • 12/8/76-1/31/77

Box 26 - Medal of Freedom Name File

  • Armstrong, Louis
  • Aronson, Hugo
  • Asper, Samuel
  • Ball, Lucille
  • Barbour, Walworth
  • Bell, Roger
  • Bensen, George
  • Berlin, Irving
  • Bernardin, Bishop Joseph L.
  • Bobst, Elmer
  • Borlaug, Dr. Norman E.
  • Bradley, Omar
  • Brucker, Wilbur
  • Brundage, Avery
  • Burke, Arleigh
  • Butler, Patrick
  • Byrne, Thomas
  • Calder, Alexander
  • Catton, Bruce
  • Chaney, Verne
  • Chapin, Katherine Garrison
  • Chapman, William
  • Clasen, Fred O.
  • Cleary, Dr. Edward J.
  • Cooper, John Sherman
  • Copland, Aaron
  • Cortesi, Nichole
  • Crosby, Bing
  • Crow, Allen
  • Daley, Ed
  • Darden, Colgate
  • Deschler, Lewis
  • DiDomenca, France
  • Dolce, Joseph
  • Dos Passos, John
  • Durant, Will and Ariel
  • Evans, Llewellyn J.
  • Evers, Charles
  • Fiedler, Arthur
  • Finkelstein, Louis
  • Finley, David
  • Fischer, Bobby
  • Fisher, Welthy Honsinger
  • Ford, John

Box 27 - Medal of Freedom Name File

  • Friendly, Henry
  • Fry, Joseph
  • Fullerton, Hugh
  • Gershwin, Ira
  • Goldsmith, Sidney
  • Graham, Martha
  • Gustafson, James
  • Harriman, Roland
  • Hayes, Roland
  • Hecht, George
  • Heifetz, Jascha
  • Heimlich, Henry
  • Halpern, Milton
  • Henderson, Cliff
  • Herbert, Eddie
  • Hoffman, Paul
  • Hope, Bob
  • Jernigan, Kenneth
  • Jessel, George (1)-(3)
  • Johns, Jasper
  • Johnson, Samuel
  • Kaye, Danny
  • Kennedy, Rose
  • Kennan, Joseph
  • Killian, James
  • Kimball, Spencer
  • King, Karl
  • King, Martin Luther, Sr.
  • Kissinger, Henry
  • Knepper, Alvin

Box 28 - Medal of Freedom Name File

  • Krock, Thomas A.P.
  • LaBouisse, Henry
  • Lang, Arthur M.
  • Laubach, Frank C.
  • Levitt, William J.
  • Lewis, Jerry
  • Lincoln, George
  • Lodge, Henry Cabot
  • Lowman, Charles Leroy
  • Lusk, Hall S.
  • MacLeish, Archibald
  • Marriott, John
  • Masaoka, Mike
  • Mays, Benjamin
  • Maxfield, James R.
  • McCain, James A. (1)-(2)
  • Menuhin, Yehudi
  • Miller, Harry Willis
  • Morris, Arthur J.
  • Moses, Robert
  • Newman, Guy D.
  • O'Keefe, Georgia
  • Osborn, Earl Dodge
  • Owens, Jesse
  • Paley, William
  • Perkins, Wilbur
  • Ponselle, Rosa
  • Rathbone, Monroe Jackson
  • Rauschenberg, Robert
  • Raye, Martha
  • Richardson, Rupert N.
  • Roberts, Henry
  • Rockwell, Norman
  • Rodriquez, Andrew
  • Rogers, Richard

Box 29 - Medal of Freedom Name File

  • Rubenstein, Arthur
  • Schultz, George
  • Schwengel, Fred
  • Shouse, Jouett
  • Smith, Margaret Chase
  • Soper, Fred
  • Stahlman, James
  • Stein, James
  • Stevens, Roger
  • Streit, Clarence and Jeanne
  • Strauss, Lewis
  • Sverdrup, Lief J.
  • Swanstrom, Edward
  • Thomas, Lowell
  • Thorpe, Jim
  • Topping, Norman
  • Toy, Robert
  • Truman, Harry S.
  • Tucker, Richard
  • Venegas, Hildreth
  • Von Braun, Wernher
  • Waldman, Louis
  • Walker, Leroy T.
  • Waring, Fred
  • Warner, John
  • Wayne, John
  • Welk, Lawrence
  • Wells, Kenneth
  • Wells, Oris
  • Whitfield, Malvin
  • Whitten, E.B.
  • Wyeth, Andrew
  • Zukor, Adolph

Box 30 - Selected States Media File

  • California (1)-(2)
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • New York (1)-(2)
  • North Carolina

Box 31 - Selected States Media File

  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas (1)-(2)
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin