Every few years the story about Jack Kennedy calling himself a jelly doughnut in his 1963 speech in Berlin makes the rounds. Here’s a first hand report of what actually happened, originally published in 1997:
From 1957 to 1980 I taught German at the Foreign Service Institute School of Language Studies, run by the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Classes were small, seldom more than four students, and I spent six hours every day with them, five days a week for five months. Following the school’s unconventional method, I started by giving my students a short sentence, which they had to repeat again and again until their pronunciation was correct. Longer sentences followed, and as their speaking ability progressed, I gave them dialogues to memorize to help promote conversation within the group. Mark Twain once said that it takes thirty years for intelligent people to master the German language. It’s too bad the Foreign Service Institute’s method hadn’t yet been tried; he would have admired its success.
One evening I received a phone call at my home in Maryland. “This is the White House calling,” said the voice on the line. “I’d like to speak with Mrs. Plischke from the Foreign Service Institute.” I laughed and said, “I’ll see you in the morning,” and hung up. I was absolutely sure one of my students had tried to play a joke on me.
An amusing expansion on the historical background.