Press Release Headlines

Interpreter for Seven Presidents Details Art of the Profession

Book Provides New Perspectives Inside and Outside the Oval Office

ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 27, 2010 — For the general public, what actually goes on inside the White House remains a mystery. An interpreter for seven past American presidents, Harry Obst has just released his new book, White House Interpreter: The Art of Interpretation (published by AuthorHouse). He takes a look at the five presidents he had the most interaction with – Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan – and shares an intimate look at the inner happenings of the Oval Office.

"Before I had time to compose my nerves, I found myself, for the first time, in the Oval Office for a one-on-one between the two leaders. … Lyndon B. Johnson plopped himself into his chair. Erhard took a smaller armchair across from him, his famous cigar in his left hand. Hermann and I pulled up chairs and whipped our notebooks out of our coat pockets. I did not react fast enough to interpret Johnson's opening statement. Kusterer had to do it for me. Suddenly, I realized that if I did not take over the next time the president spoke, my interpreting career would be over. When LBJ made his next statement, Kusterer smiled at me and made a hand gesture indicating that it was my turn. The first of thousands of sentences I was to interpret at the Oval Office over the next thirty years finally rolled off my tongue."

Unable to find work as a professional translator, Obst emigrated to the United States in 1957. He worked in private industry for eight years until the Department of State offered him a staff position as diplomatic interpreter in 1965. He gained a thorough knowledge of the U.S. from 26 trips around the country as an escort interpreter for leading personalities from Europe and from his work with many American presidents.

This book is not so much a memoir as an informative, educational look at the profession of interpreting itself. After finishing White House Interpreter, readers will understand what interpreting is all about and why this profession is of considerable importance to many segments of society. He writes:

"Nobody in the United States has ever written a book that explains the art of interpretation to the general reader. I wanted to fill that gap. Most Americans know what architects, lawyers, engineers, and physicians do, but interpreting remains a mystery to them."

About the Author

Harry Obst was born in East Prussia in 1932. He spent his early high school education as a refugee in Saxony under Soviet occupation. As the teaching of French and English was forbidden at that time, he learned English with the help of a small dictionary and eight copies of the Ladies Home Journal, the only English texts he could find. He enrolled at Mainz University in 1954, with no money, majoring in translation and rounding out his language studies.

Obst was appointed director of the Office of Language Service at the Department of State in Washington in 1984. While in that position, he occasionally interpreted for presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton. Obst retired from the federal government in March of 1997. He served as director and principal instructor of the former Inlingua School of Interpretation in Arlington, Virginia from 1997 to 2004 and has been writing and lecturing in retirement.

AuthorHouse is the premier book publisher for emerging, self-published authors. For more information, please visit

EDITORS: For review copies or interview requests, contact:
Megan Leiter
Tel: 812-349-0590
Fax: 812-349-0990
Email: Email
(When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)

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