The Kennedy Legacy

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"Gracious and genuine": Memories of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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"I was in my late teens when we first rode together in New Jersey. My horse had an unattactive habit of foaming at the mouth. Jackie was very well turned out in white britches. My horse laid his head in her lap and smeared her with green slime from hip to knee. She just smiled and turned her horse around, and my horse did it to her other leg. She never turned a hair. She was an incredibly gracious person."

~ Christine Todd Whitman, governor of New Jersey 

"She was one of the most informal people I’ve ever known. When she was married to Jack, we’d go sailing together. I’ll always remember her sitting there so peaceful, putting her bare feet in his lap. She was so genuine."

~ William Styron, author 

"The First Lady asked me how many people passed through the White House on tours. When I told her thousands did, she said they should sell something to the tourists and use the profits to help redecorate the White House. She decided to make a small book. It cost 42 cents and sold for a dollar. Over the years it has brought in $42 million."

~ Clark Clifford, JFK adviser 

"She was a tough editor. She was rigorous about correcting usage. typical sidenotes were, ‘Omit’ and ‘Do something!’ "

~ Jonathan Cott, author of four books edited by Jackie 

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"In 1974, when her maid Provi had the day off, Jackie would answer the phone in a fake Spanish accent. ‘Allo,’ she would say, hoping callers wouldn’t recognize her voice. She told me, ‘I have to do that to get rid of people.’ "

~ Barbara Gibson, formerly Rose Kennedy’s personal secretary 

"She always wore clothes in private before she wore them at public appearances. The week before she went to Dallas, she wore the pink suit with the pillbox hat to our play group. She was very excited about the trip, very happy to be going." 

~ Meredith Dale, whose daughter Rosalind played with John Jr. in the early ’60s 

"There was a bridal dinner the nigh I before Caroline’s wedding, when John gave a touching toast about how close they were. He said, ‘All our lives "there’s just been the three of us.’ Instead of losing his sister, he had become very close to Ed Schlossberg. He ended saying that the three of them now welcome a fourth. Later, I told Jackie how I would want that kind of closeness for my sons. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’ "

~  Doris Kearns Goodwin, biographer 

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When was the last time one woman so affected the world? In the tiny French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit, where a century ago her great-great-grandfather earned his keep as a cabinetmaker, the flags at City Hall flew at half-staff. On the front steps of the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, a single red hibiscus left by a stranger fluttered in the warm breeze. And in New York City, a woman on a mountain bike rode up to the elegant entrance of 1040 Fifth Avenue and placed a bouquet of red roses on the ground. “She was part of the landscape,” said Eileen Stukane before pedaling away. “I will miss her.”

 - People Magazine (1994)

(Source: lancer-lace, via nadinesayij95)

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Jackie Kennedy was the most successful of the Kennedys in managing her own legacy – until now

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By Kevin Cullen

It is fairly safe to assume that if Jacqueline Kennedy had even a hint that her correspondence with an Irish priest would become public, not to mention sold off at auction, she would have been horrified.

But she probably wouldn’t have been surprised.

As part of a family that has tried, mostly in vain, to control the unrelenting glare of public scrutiny, Jackie Kennedy had been the most successful in managing her own legacy. At least until now.

Publicity has always been both a blessing and a curse for the Kennedys. The family, especially old Joe Kennedy, used carefully managed publicity to build a fortune and a political dynasty. But the Faustian part of that deal is how the family’s most intimate moments have often played out in public, almost as a voyeuristic form of entertainment for some.

Every towering achievement, from Jack Kennedy’s election as the first Catholic president in 1960 to young Joe Kennedy’s recent election to Congress, has been matched if not surpassed by a slew of tragedies that seem disproportionate to the family’s size.

Real people, not caricatures
Given that Kennedy-watching, like the royals beat, is a cottage industry, it is easy to forget that there are real people, not caricatures, behind all the photographs and books.

Last year, in the midst of the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kennedy’s assassination, I had dinner with young Joe Kennedy, the newly minted congressman. He had been after me to talk about an issue dear to him, the disenfranchisement of Haitian migrant workers who cut sugar cane in the Dominican Republic.

Joe spent his years in the Peace Corps, founded by his great-uncle JFK, in the Dominican Republic and was worried about a recent ruling by the Dominican supreme court that could leave many Haitian migrant workers stateless. He talks about helping migrant workers in the Dominican Republic with the same passion that his grandfather Bobby talked about helping Caesar Chavez’s migrant workers in California.

As we talked about a subject with which most Americans couldn’t be bothered, I noticed that the TV on the wall over Joe’s shoulder was showing the open car as it made its way down Dealey Plaza in Dallas on the afternoon of November 22nd, 1963. When I told Joe what was on the TV behind him, he didn’t turn around. He had been animated while talking about helping migrant workers but now he was suddenly subdued.

“I’ve tried not to watch any of it,” he said, looking down, fumbling with his silverware.

For Joe Kennedy, for his whole extended family, this was not some media event, not some opportunity for every Joe Soap in the world to recall where they were when JFK was shot. For young Joe Kennedy it was another reminder that he never got to know his father’s uncle who became president. It was another reminder that he never got to sit on the lap of his grandfather who wanted to be president. It was, for young Joe Kennedy, not a national moment of reflection and commemoration, but a sombre, personal reminder that he was part of a family that has been given much but also has had so much taken away.

Young Joe Kennedy articulated the blessing and the curse.

“The outpouring has been moving,” he said of so much attention to the anniversary of his great-uncle’s murder. “What he embodied and represented, in challenging us to be a better country, for us to be better citizens, to be better people, is still important. That challenge still resonates. If you are willing to answer that call, you can serve in the military, in the Peace Corps, whatever form.

“But, you know, he was a father, a husband, an uncle, a son. And our family still misses him.”

Jackie missed him, too, for the rest of her days. And she was determined to limit the intrusion, which would explain why she maintained such a long, intimate correspondence with Fr Joseph Leonard.

Outlier
Jackie was an outlier, always was. She was always her own person in a family where conformity is prized. Jackie’s independent, curious spirit emerges in these letters and, as with her friendship with Cardinal Richard Cushing, her choice of Fr Leonard as a confidant shows her preference for priests who were more warm than pious.

These letters going on the auction block, after emerging in the pages of The Irish Times, the Boston Globe and then everywhere else, shows just how difficult it is for someone as wildly famous and purposely mysterious as Jackie Kennedy to manage a legacy, especially from the grave. At the end of the day the most private of first ladies comes out looking better, I think, but she would not have wanted it to happen this way.

(Source: irishtimes.com)

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She was always there for our family in her special way. She was a blessing to us and to the nation — and a lesson to the world on how to do things right, how to be a mother, how to appreciate history, how to be courageous. No one else looked like her, spoke like her, wrote like her, or was so original in the way she did things. No one we knew ever had a better sense of self.
- Ted Kennedy about Jackie, May 1994

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Jackie Kennedy’s Notes Reveal JFK’s second Term Plans

By Carl Anthony

There were minor matters to be resolved and legislative agendas to be initiated. There were new directions she intended to take and a progression of efforts he had already begun. Whether President John F. Kennedy  or First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy or both of them would have done all or part of what many journalists, colleagues, staff aides, policy experts and historians presumed or insisted they would have in a second Kennedy Administration, is ultimately a futile matter of regret, hindsight, and speculation. It always proves moot because of his assassination fifty years ago. Killed during what was then only the first preliminary political trip of JFK’s as-yet unannounced 1964 presidential re-election campaign for an intended second term, such assumptions are based on the premise that he would have won. 

In no private memorandum or recorded conversations, did JFK document his intended agenda for a second term, which would have begun on January 20, 1965 and ended on January 20, 1969.

Jacqueline Kennedy, however, did.

Jackie’s Notes
If was not a diary or memoir but it was in handwritten form (some of which she had transcribed onto typed light blue pages), in responding to my questions, and then as clarifications, corrections, edits and insertions she made in 1989 and 1990 in both margin notes and the various drafts of what became my book First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents’ Wives & Their Power, Volume 2.

About seven years later, in my role as a contributing editor to George Magazine, I mentioned some of this to her son, the magazine co-founder and editor-in-chief. He wasn’t surprised, he cracked, that she thought that far ahead. A glimpse of some of these intentions and forecasts follow below.

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Plans
While the book’s topic naturally meant the focus was on the work she intended to purse during the rest of the Kennedy Administration, she also addressed what her late husband had planned to do had his presidency continued beyond November 22, 1963, in regard to domestic legislation and foreign relations.

In fact, she addressed not only JFK’s long-range intentions but what he had planned to do later that very day.

Although she did not specify whether he would do so on Air Force One after they left Dallas or when they arrived in Austin and he had private time to work as an overnight guest at Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch, President Kennedy was scheduled to authorize the appointment of his aide Richard Goodwin to a cabinet-level post for the arts and humanities.

In written response to a question I initially posed, Mrs. Onassis said that “JFK was going to sign a paper naming Richard Goodwin to the first Cabinet Post for the Arts.”

When I later incorporated her quote into my manuscript and she later edited it, the former First Lady inserted the words, “on November 22nd,” extending her quotation.

In her earlier declarations to me she explained how she envisioned the role of the federal governments and the widest purview of just what a Cultural Department at the Cabinet level would entail. In a secondary response, she added, “In a way, the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) and NEH [National Endowment of the Humanities] have achieved all this.”

New role
The Texas trip marked the initial domestic travel with a political agenda which Jacqueline Kennedy made as First Lady, with or without the President. It was the beginning of an entirely new role she now intended to assume. She said it was only the first of many such trips she would make. In fact, the morning of November 22, she agreed to join the President on a campaign fundraising trip to California scheduled for early December, 1963.

She also planned to begin making joint public appearances with him on day trips from Washington, beginning with the army-navy football game on December 1, in Philadelphia. Despite the one-month mourning period following the President’s death, Jacqueline Kennedy asked that the game be played in his honor and it was, postponed just one week.

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Foreign trips
Scheduled for the winter of 1964, the President and Mrs. Kennedy were to make a tour of nations of the Far East, including Japan and the Philippines. In an early draft of the First Ladies manuscript, Mrs. Onassis added that “[B]oth looked forward” to that trip and were “even thinking of moving the date up, leaving right after New Year’s.” 

Interestingly, despite the great success of her 1962 foreign trips to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador but official representative of the United States government  on her own, Jacqueline Kennedy had no foreseeable intention of making overseas trips without the President.

She was eager to return to India and Pakistan, but this time with JFK.

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Scheduled for the summer of 1964, as President Kennedy would have been pursing the formal nomination for another term and seeking to broaden his appeal, was a vacation trip not to his extended family’s Hyannis Port, Massachusetts compound but, as she sparsely phrased it in an early draft, the “Montana mountains.” This might well suggest what JFK anticipated would be a characterization of him by a Republican presidential opponent as an eastern Establishment elitist.

However, the most startling revelation she made in terms of JFK’s vision for his international politics agenda in a second term involved the People’s Republic of China.

On a later manuscript page, she inserted a lengthy statement to this effect: “The President realized that relations with China would eventually have to be re-established and was considering a trip there in his second term.”

In scrutinizing the manuscript, she removed from it information she documented to be untrue and expounded on what she confirmed was true regarding her own future plans as First Lady.

Historical landmarks
The most startling of all her intentions for a second term was to go public in her lobbying of federal legislation protecting historical landmarks across the country as she had done privately on behalf of the White House and Lafayette Square.

She also wanted to build a far more substantial collection of historical furnishings for the White House so the point could be reached where it would no longer use loaned items for the state rooms: her misgivings were based on the fact that many collectors who loaned important historical objects would soon enough ask that these be returned and then sell them at public auction, fetching higher prices because these items been displayed in the White House.

Once a greater collection had been built, Jacqueline Kennedy was eager to then “cataloging the entire White House collection.”

Vietnam
Of all her later recollections about what President Kennedy intended to do, the most upsetting to her was what she curiously characterized as a “secret meeting,” with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge.

Her account suggests that he went into uncharacteristic detail with her about the reasons for this, briefing her fully on the current and unfolding situation.

He would have had two strong reasons for doing this.

First, he was meeting with the Ambassador not at the White House but at their private weekend home “Wexford,” thus intruding on what was supposed to be set aside as time alone with her and their children.

Second, since the time they had first begun dating, while he was a freshman U.S. Senator and she was a newspaper columnist and photographer, he had known of her particular depth of knowledge and nuanced understanding of the delicate situation in Vietnam which, along with Laos and Cambodia, formed the former French colony of “Indochina.” She had begun studying the situation since 1949 while enrolled at the Sorbonne and she also translated French military policy reports for him on the matter in 1953.

It is unclear why the account provided by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1990 contradicts the later publicly reported claim that the meeting was to take place at Camp David.

As the former First Lady specifically amplified my original manuscript account:

“He [JFK] was searching for a way to relieve the ambassador of his duties and to gradually diminish the U.S. presence in Vietnam. JFK had scheduled a White House meeting on this subject for Monday morning, November 25.”

This particular intention of JFK’s, “haunted for years” Jacqueline Kennedy (as her friend, the JFK-LBJ Defense Secretary Robert McNamara put it in our taped interview) because instead of beginning perhaps “to gradually diminish the U.S. presence in Vietnam” on Monday, November 25, 1963, the President was instead being buried at Arlington National Cemetery that day.

(Source: carlanthonyonline.com)

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Every Valentine’s Day, he [Jack] amused her [Jackie] by wearing his "lovebug" undershorts.
Doranne Jacobson. ‘Presidents & First Ladies of the United States, pg. 105’

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