February 22, 2012
JACQUELINE KENNEDY, HISTORIC CONVERSATIONS: INTRODUCTION
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on Michael Beschloss’s introduction to “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on the Life of John F. Kennedy” published by Hyperion.*
Mr. Beschloss begins his introduction with a quotation from Mrs. Kennedy’s obituary in the New York Times, May 19, 1994:
“Her silence about her past, especially about the Kennedy years & her marriage to the President, was always something of a mystery.”
Mr. Beschloss follows with a brief overview of Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, including her 1st brief meeting with Jack Kennedy in 1948 on a train from Washington, D.C. to New York.
After she left the White House in 1963, Mrs. Kennedy avoided the mansion. That is, until 1971, when she took Caroline & John Jr. to view of the official White House portraits done by Aaron Shikler.
The idea of an oral history project, Mr. Beschloss tells us, was “much on (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s) mind after Dallas.”
Since much of the Kennedy presidency was in private conversations, either in person or on the telephone, an oral history was vital for preservation of the record.
So on March 2, 1964, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. visited Jacqueline Kennedy at her new home at 3017 N Street in Georgetown.**
It would be the 1st of 7 interviews recorded on audio tape for posterity.
Mr. Schlesinger told Mrs. Kennedy to speak as if talking to a “historian of the 21st century.”
Mr. Beschloss says that this oral history “constitutes a fresh internal narrative” & discusses some of Jacqueline Kennedy’s contributions as 1st Lady.
He writes that she transformed the role of the wife of the President of the United States & her “accute sense of how symbols & ceremony could shape American history” was vital in the days following JFK’s death.
Mr. Beschloss writes:
“Despite her insistence on privacy, Jacqueline Kennedy never forgot her obligations to posterity.”
She is the 1st wife of a President to submit to hours of intensive questioning about her public & private life.
“Now,” Michael Beschloss writes, it is time to “listen to what she has to say.”
*Michael Beschloss, born in Chicago in 1955, graduated with highest honors from Williams College. He has been called the nation’s leading Presidential historian by Newsweek.
His books include: “The Crisis Years: Kennedy & Khrushchev, 1960-1963” published in 1991, & “Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America, 1789-1989”, published in 2007.
**Mrs. Kennedy was forced to leave the house at 3017 N Street in Georgetown in September 1964 because of the many tourists who camped outside her door.
She & her children moved to Manhattan.
The house, built in 1794, was the home of President Wilson’s Secretary of War, Newton Baker. It was purchased in 1975 by former Miss America, Yolande Betbeze Fox.