Stephen Schlesinger

Stephen Schlesinger

Stephen Schlesinger is an author, political commentator and international affairs specialist. He is a Fellow at the Century Foundation in New York City. He served as Director of the World Policy Institute at the New School University from 1997 to 2006. He was foreign policy advisor to New York State Governor Mario Cuomo during his three terms in office.

Background and Education

Stephen Schlesinger was born on August 17, 1942. He is the son of historian and presidential biographer Arthur Schlesinger Jr. His mother, Marian Schlesinger, is a writer and portrait artist. He attended Browne and Nichols School and Phillips Exeter Academy, graduating in 1960. He earned a BA from Harvard University in 1964 in American History and Literature; a one-year certificate of study from Peterhouse at Cambridge University in 1965; and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1968.

Early Career (1968-72)

Schlesinger began as a freelance writer investigating the 1967 Algiers Motel murders in Detroit and covering the 1968 Czechoslovakia uprisings against the Soviet occupation. Later he served as special assistant to Ed Muskie and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey during the 1972 Democratic presidential primaries.[2]

Journalistic Career (1973-82)

Schlesinger became a columnist for The Boston Globe in 1974, writing the weekly "L't'ry Life" column about magazines and periodicals. From 1974-78, he was a writer for Time Magazine in the Press Section and the National Affairs Section. In 1975, his book, The New Reformers, about the new political currents that grew out of the 1960s, was published. In 1978, he served as the chief political correspondent for The New York Post. In that same year, he wrote a piece for The Nation Magazine on the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala which earned a National Magazine nomination. In 1982, he and co-author Stephen Kinzer published Bitter Fruit, a much acclaimed full-length account of the US intervention in Guatemala.

Governmental Service (1983-94)

New York State Government

Schlesinger served as a speechwriter, liberal counsellor, and foreign policy advisor to Cuomo Commission on Competitiveness in 1992.

Election Monitoring Missions

Schlesinger participated in election monitoring missions for National Democratic Institute (NDI), helping to oversee Bulgaria's first democratic election in 1990 after the fall of its Communist government; he participated in a second NDI mission in 1990 to monitor Guatemala's presidential election; and in 1993 he was an observer of Paraguay's presidential election as part of a NDI delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter.

United Nations (1995-96, 2003, et al)

Schlesinger worked at the Habitat-2 Conference on global cities in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2003, he published a landmark study of the 1945 San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations, entitled Act of Creation, which won the 2004 Harry S. Truman Book Award, given every two years. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited him, as part of the Annan lecture series, to speak to the UN Secretariat about the book in 2006. He has appeared in six documentaries on the UN.

Academic Career (1997-2006, et al)

World Policy Institute

Schlesinger became Director of the Harvard College in 1968; an adjunct professor at The New School University in American politics in 1976; a Visiting Scholar at New York University 1994-96; and an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Policy in 2010. He lectures around the country and overseas.


Schlesinger's book, Bitter Fruit (Doubleday 1982), co-authored with Stephen Kinzer, about the 1954 US coup in Guatemala, garnered remarkable attention. Jim Miller in Newsweek wrote that "Schlesinger's and Kinzer's meticulously documented history reads like a cloak-and-dagger thriller..." Warren Hoge in The Sunday New York Times Book Review called it "a tale of dirty tricks, the manipulation of public opinion, the smearing of the precious few journalists who managed to sense what was really going on and of foreign policy that borrowed more from Doonesbury than diplomacy." The book is considered a classic study of American interventionism abroad and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

His subsequent book on the UN's founding, Act of Creation (Westview Press 2003), an account of the 1945 San Francisco conference that drafted the UN Charter, received the highest accolades. Robert Caro called it "an immensely valuable contribution to our understanding of one of the most pivotal events of the twentieth century..." The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, writing in The Sunday New York Times Book Review, observed: "A superb book that reconstructs this drama with great lucidity and illuminates its contemporary relevance." It won the 2004 Harry S. Truman Book Award.

In 2007, with his brother, Andrew, he edited his father's Journals 1952-2000 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (Penguin Press 2007) which covers Schlesinger's life through the second half of the twentieth century. The diaries became a best seller. Reviewers like Janet Maslin in The New York Times observed: "This arch, irresistibly revealing book manages to be both show-stopping and door-stopping, what with its vast range of subject matter and unfettered private sniping... [T]his book creates a moving and monumental 48-year chronicle." Jonathan Alter in Newsweek remarked that the book "contains juicy morsels on every one of its 858 pages." In, Sidney Blumenthal noted that "If the American century were cast as a Broadway show, this would be the playbill."

Subsequently Schlesinger co-edited with his brother The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (Random House 2013). The book earned broad critical praise. Ted Widmer in The Daily Beast proclaimed: "To re-enter the world of his correspondence is like a form of time travel, giving the reader access to the same vertiginous ride he was on, following the presidency and the course of American liberalism from its high-water mark under FDR, through its many peaks and valleys since then." The Literary Editor of The Chicago Tribune, Elizabeth Taylor, commented: "Nostalgia isn't the only reason to read these letters. Another is to be immersed in a world where someone cares deeply about ideas and people."

Personal Life

Schlesinger is married to Judith Elster, a journalist and teacher. Their daughter, Sarah, is an artist. He has three brothers -- Andrew, an author and documentary film-maker; Robert, an author and editor of the on-line Op-Ed page of The US News and World Report magazine; and Peter, an entertainment lawyer. His sister, Christina, is a painter and art teacher. His twin sister, Katherine, died in 2004. His father died in 2007.

Professional Associations and Memberships

Schlesinger is a member of The Council on Foreign Relations; The Overseas Press Club; The United Nations Correspondents Association; The Century Association; PEN; The Board of Governors of the Roosevelt Institute; The Author's Guild; The Global Affairs Advisory Board, Occidental College; The UN Alliance of Civilizations, as a Global Expert (2010-present); and is an honorary Fellow of The Foreign Policy Association since 2004. He is listed in Contemporary Authors, WorldHeritage, The Dictionary of International Biography, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in the World. He was a Roosevelt Fellow in 2007 and an Honorary Chairperson of The Frank Church Institute at Boise State University. Schlesinger has served as a judge on the Selections Committee of The British Atlantic Fellowships, 1995, 1996; on The Voice of America Cowan Award1998; on the 2002 Robert Kennedy Book Awards committee; and on The Overseas Press Club media awards in 2007. He was a consultant on Director Steven Soderberg's film Che in 2005. He has also appeared in two documentaries about the CIA's 1954 coup in Guatemala.


  • The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (Random House 2013, co-editor)
  • Journals 1952-2000 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Penguin Press 2007, co-editor)
  • Act of Creation: The Founding of The United Nations (Westview Press 2003)
  • Bitter Fruit: The Story of the U.S. Coup in Guatemala (Doubleday 1982, with Stephen Kinzer)
  • The New Reformers (Houghton Mifflen 1975)


  • Contributor profile at the Huffington Post
  1. ^
  2. ^ He later worked as a speechwriter for Senator George McGovern during his 1972 presidential campaign.

External links

  • Official web site
  • Interview on