John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

Presidents and Speed Reading

In Thethe trials of harry s truman 9781501102899 lg Trials of Harry S. Truman (which I reviewed here) Jeffery Frank writes about Truman’s effort to race to get up to speed after becoming president: “Truman felt the strain of having to catch up: “Have been going through some very hectic days,” he told his diary, on June 1. “Eyes troubling somewhat. Too much reading ‘fine print.’ Nearly every memorandum has a catch in it and it has been necessary to read at least a thousand of ’em and as many reports. Most of it at night.”


It reminded me of John Kennedy’s speedreading prowess. The book “Camelot at Dawn” talks about it: JFK developed a phenomenal ability to read material quickly. For several weeks in the spring of 1954, Jack and Bobby had been traveling together to Baltimore to attend a speed reading class at the John Hopkins University’s evening college. Professor Elton Y. Mears taught the class, entitled, “How to Read Better and Faster.” It met Tuesday evenings 8:30–10:30, and the brothers had to drive more than an hour each way to attend it.”


Carter went to school when he became president. In his memoir, he includes an anecdote on learning to speed-read once he came to office which the New York Times writes about in its review of the memoir:

Soon after discovering what his workload would be like, ”I arranged for Rosalynn, myself, and all my key aides to attend weekly sessions of a speed-reading course in the Cabinet Room. After the first couple of lessons, my reading speed doubled” and ”finally it quadrupled.” To win a vote from S.I. Hayakawa, he took the trouble to speed-read one of the California Senator’s books on semantics.

1 thought on “Presidents and Speed Reading”

  1. Michaela Barnes

    I’d heard about those speed reading classes long ago and wondered if it was true. Then I was sitting next to Casper Weinberger on the people mover at Dulles airport , long after he was out of government. He read the entire WSJ in the trip to the terminal. Made me figure the stories on cabinet members taking speed reading was true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *