Thornburgh’s press officers and staff throughout his career frequently used audiotapes as an appropriate way to document informal remarks and press conferences in particular, but the collection also includes tapes of more formal ceremonies and events. The audios are from the periods when Thornburgh served as Governor of Pennsylvania, Attorney General of the United States, campaigns for Governor and U.S. Senate, and into his ongoing career. The Thornburgh collection includes more than 500 such tapes. In particular 9 hours from 31 items have been digitized and are available here online.
The content of the collection of tapes is extensive and highly varied, from the conflicts and excitement of campaigns to some incredible press conferences and speeches related to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (TMI). There are numerous press interviews with particularly challenging questions and answers regarding virtually all the significant accomplishments of Thornburgh's career, and both formal speeches and informal remarks at events. Perhaps surprisingly, these audios are extremely interesting even in our current world focused more on visual and video presentations.
The audios that have been digitized for the Web site are as varied as the collection as a whole. The earliest is the swearing-in ceremony of Lieutenant Governor Scranton in January 1979, and the latest a 1993 BBC interview regarding Thornburgh’s year spent as under-secretary-general of the United Nations. Much of the content of the audios is unavailable in other formats, and thus is particularly of interest. The TMI news conference with Harold Denton of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 31, 1979 and the following day’s press conference with President Carter are notable. There are presentations newly established by Thornburgh during his years as governor such as the Distinguished Art Award to actor Jimmy Stewart and the Distinguished Service Medal to General Matthew B. Ridgeway. Both of these are particularly compelling. There is also a brief and somewhat difficult-to-hear welcome to Pope John Paul II by Governor Thornburgh on the tarmac at Philadelphia airport, with the pope’s response. Although Ginny Thornburgh worked to the benefit of the Commonwealth every day during the governor’s two terms in office, we have but one speech of hers, which was given on Mother’s Day 1983 to the students at Valley Forge Military Academy.
Audios of Dick Thornburgh cover most all major topics with which he grappled and was concerned. Just for example, there are speeches and remarks about Three Mile Island and its long-ranging aftermath, national energy concerns, education and welfare reform, job creation, balanced budgets, Rule of Law, civil justice reform, the role of the United Nations, judicial appointments, drug trafficking, the savings and loan scandals, and disability law. The press conference following Thornburgh’s gubernatorial trip to Japan and China is very informative, and his remarks in Moscow on the occasion of the historic first visit of an attorney general to the Soviet Union are notable. As a change of pace, the musical tourism campaign ads “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania,” and the governor’s performance at the outrageous annual press Gridiron event, 1984, are enjoyable.
Time spent listening will be both informative and/or entertaining.
Jimmy Stewart, recipient of the first Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award, press conference, Harrisburg, May 1, 1980
Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal presentation to General Matthew Ridgeway, Harrisburg; introduction by General Richard M. Scott, Pennsylvania's secretary of military affairs; remarks by governor and General Ridgeway, June 6, 1980 audio (10:17) transcript (PDF)
Post-re-election campaign press conference, Philadelphia, November 3, 1982
Three Mile Island press conference: Governor Thornburgh and President Carter statements, followed by Harold Denton (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) press conference, April 1, 1979
"A Report to the People on the Three Mile Island Incident": major statement following the 10 harrowing days of the accident and stating that women and children will soon be able to safely return home, April 6, 1979 audio (10:30) transcript (PDF)
National Governors Association trip to the Soviet Union: press conference, Harrisburg: lessons of Three Mile Island and other international sensitive issues, December 4, 1979 audio (22:40) transcript (PDF)
Voice of America drug workshop: Dick Thornburgh speaker: international drug trafficking; extensive Q&As, April 8, 1989
Q&As following speech to ABA Annual Meeting; Chicago: judicial appointments and ABA participation, August 6, 1990