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Presidential Speechwriter Richard Goodwin Remembered

FILE - Richard Goodwin receives a doctor of humane letters honorary degree during commencement ceremonies at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, May 29, 2010.

Former Democratic presidents remembered Richard Goodwin on Tuesday, a political strategist and speechwriter for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, who died of cancer at age 86.

"Dick Goodwin was a citizen in the truest sense of the word — someone who, with joy and purpose, joined all who came before in that long march to make America a freer, more equal, more just, more caring and prosperous place for all who came after,'' former President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Former President Bill Clinton remembered Goodwin's work.

"Boy, he could write. What a great writer. The [civil rights speech] he wrote for [Lyndon] Johnson, it was pretty awesome,'' Clinton said of the speech Goodwin wrote in 1965.

Often called the "We Shall Overcome" speech for its repeated use of that phrase, Johnson delivered the address to Congress after civil rights demonstrators were attacked by law enforcement in Selma, Alabama.

Racism, Johnson said, was an American problem. He added that it was up to all of its leaders, and all of its politicians and people, to solve it. Johnson asked, "For with a country as with a person, what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Goodwin helped to write Senator Robert F. Kennedy's "Ripple of Hope" speech, delivered at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped," Kennedy said. "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

In his political career, Goodwin was also credited with coining the phrase "The Great Society," which Johnson used for a suite of social welfare, equality and conservation programs.

Goodwin's death was announced by his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.