Full Text Political Transcripts May 7, 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Acceptance Speech

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA POST-PRESIDENCY:

Former President Barack Obama’s 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Acceptance Speech

Source: Time, 5-7-17

Hello, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Well, first of all, thank you so much, Jack, for that really kind introduction. And I like the socks.

I also want to thank you and Rose and Tatiana and your dad for sharing Caroline with us the past few years as America’s ambassador to Japan.

Caroline, you, true to form, did your country proud, and I’m sure your father and mom would have been proudest of all. I sure was proud, and I’m grateful for your friendship.

I want to thank Ken Feinberg for his service as chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation these past 12 years. He also rendered outstanding service to my administration when we were dealing with the BP oil spill, 9/11. He has rendered public service again and again and again. We’re very grateful for him.

It is wonderful — it is wonderful to see Senators Markey and Senator Warren; my dear friend and former governor, Deval Patrick, and his lovely wife Diane; governors and members of Congress; Cardinal O’Malley; one of the finest secretary of states ever to represent America around the world, John Kerry, and Theresa; and the best vice president this country has ever known, Mr. Joe Biden.

I also want to thank Michelle Obama for after the presidency sticking with me because I think she felt an obligation to the country to stay on. But once her official duties were over, it wasn’t clear. I love my wife. And I’m grateful for her. And I do believe that it was America’s great good fortune to have her as first lady.

So I am humbled by this evening and to be honored by a family that has given this country so much, a family that’s challenged us to ask what we can do for our country, to dream and say why not, a secret cause that endures and to sail against the wind in its pursuit.

That’s what this family has done for America. And to all the members of the Kennedy family that are here tonight, thank you.

I could not be more grateful to the Profile in Courage Award Committee for this honor. I’m also grateful that, unlike the Nobel Prize Committee, you waited until I was out of office.

How fitting that we gather here this month, the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth. I was born the year he took office, which makes me 55 years old. Had he lived to finish two terms, he would have been just 51. And he remarked on that possibility once. “It has been suggested,” he said, “that whether I serve one or two terms in the presidency, I will find myself at the end of that period at what might be called the awkward age, too old to begin a career and too young to write my memoirs.”

Now, I hadn’t seen this quote when I wrote my first memoir at 33. I’m now in the middle of my second. Moreover, I expect to be busy if not with a second career then at least a second act. But it is true that I’m at the age, at that turn in the road, where one looks back as well as forward to remember one — where one has been, so it’s better to chart where one is going.

And one thing I’m certain is that I was lucky to be born into that new frontier, a new world, and a new generation of Americans. My life in many ways would not have been possible without the vision that John F. Kennedy etched into the character and hearts of America.

To those of us of a certain age, the Kennedys symbolized a set of values and attitudes about civic life that made it such an attractive calling. The idea that politics in fact could be a noble and worthwhile pursuit. The notion that our problems, while significant, are never insurmountable.

The belief that America’s promise might embrace those who had once been locked out or left behind and that opportunity and dignity would no longer be restricted to the few but extended to the many.

The responsibility that each of us have to play a part in our nation’s destiny, and by virtue of being Americans, play a part in the destiny of the world.
I can see truthfully that the example of Jack and Bobby Kennedy helped guide me into politics and that the guidance of Teddy Kennedy made me a better public servant once I arrived in Washington.

I have to imagine it would give them great pride to see a new generation of Kennedys, like Joe, carving their own proud paths in public service.

For whatever reasons I receive this award, whatever the scale, the challenges that we overcame, and the scope of progress we made over my presidency, it is worth pointing out that in many ways the times that President Kennedy confronted were far more perilous than the ones that we confront today.

He entered the Oval Office at just 43, only a few years after Khrushchev had threatened to bury America. Wars raged around the world. Large swaths of the country knew poverty far deeper and more widespread than we see today. A young preacher’s cause was just gaining traction against a land segregated not only by custom but by law.

And yet in that volatile tinderbox of a time, President Kennedy led with a steady hand, diffusing the most perilous moment of the cold war without firing a single shot and forcing the rights of young black men and women to study at the university of their choice. Unleashing a corps of young volunteers as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe. Setting America’s sights on the moon precisely because it was hard, unwilling to consider the possibility that we might not win the space race because he had an unwavering faith in the character of the people that he led: resilient, optimistic, innovative, and courageous.

It’s worth remembering this, the times in which President Kennedy led us, because for many Americans I know that this feels like an uncertain and even perilous time. The forces of globalization and technology have upended many of our established assumptions about the economy. It provided a great opportunity and also a great inequality and uncertainty for far too many. Our politics remains filled with division and discord, and everywhere we see the risk of falling into the refuge of tribe and clan and anger at those who don’t look like us or have the same surnames or pray the way we do.

And at such moments, courage is necessary. At such moments, we need courage to stand up to hate not just in others but in ourselves. At such moments, we need the courage to stand up to dogma not just in others but in ourselves. At such moments, we need courage to believe that together we can tackle big challenges like inequality and climate change. At such moments, it’s necessary for us to show courage in challenging the status quo and in fighting the good fight but also show the courage to listen to one another and seek common ground and embrace principled compromise

Courage, President Kennedy knew, requires something more than just the absence of fear. Any fool can be fearless. Courage, true courage, derives from that sense of who we are, what are our best selves, what are our most important commitments, and the belief that we can dig deep and do hard things for the enduring benefit of others.

And that’s why JFK’s first inaugural still rings true. That’s why Bobby’s campaign still means so much. That’s why Teddy’s cause endures and we still love him so much.

Because of the tragedies that befell each of them, sometimes we forget how fundamentally the story they told us about ourselves changed the trajectory of America. And that’s often where courage begins, with the story we tell ourselves about who we are and what’s important and about our own capacity to make a difference.

We live in a time of great cynicism about our institutions. That’s one of the few things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. It’s a cynicism that’s most corrosive when it comes to our system of self-government, that clouds our history of jagged, sometimes tentative but ultimately forward progress, that impedes our children’s ability to see in the noisy and often too trivial pursuits of politics the possibility of our democracy doing big things.

Of course, disdain for elected officials is not new, as many of you in the room can tell others. 60 years ago President Kennedy quoted a columnist in “Profiles in Courage” who had written, “People don’t give a damn what the average senator or congressman says. The reason they don’t care is that they know what you hear in Congress is 99 percent tripe, ignorance, and demagoguery and not to be relied upon.”

Which is perhaps a little harsh. 99 percent seems high. 85?

But President Kennedy also wrote that “the complication of public business and the competition for the public’s attention have obscured innumerable acts of political courage, large and small, performed almost daily.”

Innumerable acts of political courage large and small performed almost daily. And that is true. I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed it.

I’ve been thinking on this notion of political courage this weekend, in particular about some of the men and women who were elected to Congress the same year I was elected to the White House. Many of them were new to Washington, their entire careers ahead of them. And in that very first term, they had to take tough vote after tough vote because we were in crisis.

They took votes to save the financial system and the economy, even when it was highly unpopular. They took votes to save the auto industry when even in Michigan people didn’t want to see bailouts. They took votes to crack down on abuses on Wall Street, despite pressure from lobbyists and sometimes their donors.

And they found themselves in the midst of a great debate, a debate that had been going on for decades, a debate that the Kennedy family had participated in and helped lead: a debate about whether a nation as wealthy as the United States of America would finally make healthcare not a privilege but a right for all Americans.

And there was a reason why healthcare reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard. It involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering.

And so by the time the vote came up to pass the Affordable Care Act, these freshmen congressmen and women knew that they had to make a choice. That they had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy, and even death, but that this same vote would likely cost them their new seats, perhaps end their political careers.

And these men and women did the right thing. They did the hard thing. Theirs was a profile in courage. Because of that vote, 20 million people got health insurance who didn’t have it before.

And most of them — and most of them did lose their seats, but they were true to what President Kennedy defined in his book as a congressional profile in courage: the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office, the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than a desire to maintain office, a conscience, personal standard of ethics, integrity, morality that is stronger than the pressures of public disapproval or party disapproval, a faith that the right course would ultimately be vindicated, a faith that overcame fear of public reprisal.

It was a personal sacrifice. But I know, because I’ve spoken to many of them, that they thought and still think it was worth it.

As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues. And it is my fervent hope and the hope of millions that regardless of party, such courage is still possible, that today’s members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions.

I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn’t take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm, those who often have no access to the corridors of power.

I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right. And this kind of courage is required from all of us. Those of us who consider ourselves progressives, those of us who are Democrats, we’ve got some soul-searching to do to see what kind of coverage we show. We have our own dogmas.
Those of us not in elected office have to show some courage. And we’re prone to bestow the mantel of courage too easily on the prominent and the powerful and then too eager to wrap ourselves in cynicism when they let us down because they weren’t perfect.

We lose sight sometimes of our own obligations, each of ours, all the quiet acts of courage that unfold around us every single day, ordinary Americans who give something of themselves not for personal gain but for the enduring benefit of another. The courage of a single mom who is working two jobs to make sure her kid can go to college. The courage of a small business owner who’s keeping folks on the payroll because he knows the family relies on it, even if it’s not always the right thing to do bottom line. The courage of somebody who volunteers to help some kids who need help.

When we recognize these acts of courage, we then necessarily recognize our own responsibility as citizens and as part of the human family to get involved and to get engaged and to take a stand, to vote, to pay attention.

I’m reminded of a story that Teddy once told me about his experiences many years ago when Teddy, Junior, now state Senator Ted Kennedy, Junior, was sleeping after one of his cancer treatments.

And Ted would wander the halls of the hospital and talk with other parents, keeping vigil over their own children. These parents lived in constant fear of what might happen if they couldn’t afford the next treatment. Some calculating in their own minds what they might have to sell or borrow just to make it for a few more months, some bargaining with God for whatever they could get.

And right there in the quiet of night, working people of modest means and one of the most powerful men in America shared the same intimate and immediate sense of helplessness.

And Ted could, of course, afford his son’s treatment. But it was that quiet dignified courage of others to endure the most frightening thing imaginable and to do what it takes on behalf of their loved ones that compelled Teddy to make those parents his cause, not out of self-interest but out of a selfless concern for those who suffer.

That’s what the ordinary courage of everyday people can inspire when you’re paying attention, the quiet sturdy courage of ordinary people doing the right thing day in and day out. They don’t get attention for it. They don’t seek it. They don’t get awards for it. But that’s what’s defined America.

I think of women like my grandmother and so many like her who worked their way up from a secretarial pool to management and in the process pushed the glass ceiling just a little bit higher.

I think about people like Michelle’s dad who, despite MS, got up every single morning. Had to wake up an hour early to button his shirt up and put on his clothes and take those two canes he used and go to work every single day to make sure that he was supporting his family, not missing a dance recital or a basketball game.

I think of the troops and the cops and the first responders that I’ve met who have put themselves at risk for strangers they will never know. And business owners who make every kind of sacrifice they can to make sure that their workers have a shot. And workers who take the risk of starting a new career, retraining at my age. Kids in the Peace Corps working to build bridges of understanding in other nations and spread the same values that helped bring down an iron curtain, banish the scourge of apartheid, expand the boundaries of human freedom.

I think of dreamers who suppress their fears to keep working and striving in the only country they’ve ever called home. And every American who stands up for immigrants because they know that their parents or grandparents or great grandparents were immigrants too, and they know that America is an idea that only grows stronger with each new person who adopts our common creed.

I think of every young activist who answers the injustices still embedded in our criminal justice system not with violence, not with despair, but with peaceful protests and analysis and constructive recommendations for change.

I think of the powerless who crossed a bridge in Selma and discovered they had power. Those who gathered at Stonewall and discovered they had a voice. Those who marched on Washington because they believed that they, without an army, without great wealth, could somehow change the very fabric of the greatest power on earth and kept on until they stretched the lofty ideals of our founding to encircle everyone.

Every citizen inspired by that history who dips their toes in the water of active democracy for the first time and musters up the determination to try and fail and try again, and sometimes fail again and still try again, knowing their efforts aren’t always rewarded right away, because they believe in that upward trajectory of the American story, a story that nobody told better than John F. Kennedy.

That very Kennedyesque idea that America is not the project of any one person and that each of us can make a difference and all of us ought to try. That quiet sturdy citizenship that I see all across the country and that I especially see in young people like Jack and Rose and Tatiana, Malia and Sasha, and your kids.

I don’t know whether President Kennedy’s aide and friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was right when he wrote that history unfolds in cycles, but I do know that it doesn’t move in a straight line.

I know that the values and the progress that we cherish are not inevitable, that they are fragile, in need of constant renewal.

I’ve said before that I believe what
Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” but I’ve also said it does not bend on its own. It bends because we bend it, because we put our hand on that arch, and we move it in the direction of justice and freedom and equality and kindness and generosity. It doesn’t happen on its own.

And so we are constantly having to make a choice because progress is fragile. And it’s precisely that fragility, that impermanence, that is a precondition of the quality of character that we celebrate tonight.

If the vitality of our democracy, if the gains of our long journey to freedom were assured, none of us would ever have to be courageous. None of us would have to risk anything to protect them. But it’s in its very precariousness that courage becomes possible and absolutely necessary.

John F. Kennedy knew that our best hope and our most powerful answer to our doubts and to our fears lies inside each of us, in our willingness to joyfully embrace our responsibility as citizens, to stay true to our allegiance, to our highest and best ideals, to maintain our regard and concern for the poor and the aging and the marginalized, to put our personal or party interest aside when duty to our country calls or when conscience demands.

That’s the spirit that has brought America so far and that’s the spirit that will always carry us to better days.

And I take this honor that you have bestowed on me here tonight as a reminder that, even out of office, I must do all that I can to advance the spirit of service that John F. Kennedy represents.

Thank you all very much. May God bless you. May he bless these United States of America.

Thank you.

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Nominate Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

ABC/Rick Rowell

President Obama will nominate former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, would be the first woman to serve in the role….READ MORE

White House Recap December 3-9, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Advocates Payroll Tax Cut Extension & the Middle Class in Populist Economic Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas — Channels Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: DECEMBER 3-9, 2011

This week, the President gave a major address on the defining issue of our time, restoring economic security to the middle class.

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: The Clock is Ticking

Source: WH, 12-9-11

Download Video: mp4 (205.5MB)

Tax Countdown The clock is ticking. On Monday, the President urged Congress to pass tax cuts for the middle class before they go home for the holidays. Immediately after the briefing, the White House launched a countdown clock on WhiteHouse.gov and in the press briefing room, to let people know exactly how much time is left before taxes go up for middle class families without congress. Later in the week, Senate Republicans blocked the tax cut extension as well as Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a job that ensures consumer protection. In a press briefing, the President addressed that vote and Congress’ failure to extend the payroll tax cut. President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing “off the table” in ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.

Make or Break Moment More than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt gave his historic New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie,Kansas, President Obama traveled  to this same small town to address the make-or-break moment for the middle class. Some in Washington argue that we should let the markets take care of everything — rolling back regulation and slashing taxes.Thankfully, President Obama said, we can choose a different path: “There’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country. It is a view that says in America we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.”

College Affordability Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida to talk about college affordability in a town hall meeting. They spoke with parents and students about steps the administration has taken to reduce college costs and the need to keep college tuition low so more Americans have the opportunity to obtain a degree.  President Obama and Vice President Biden have focused on making college affordable for middle-class families since the day they took office.  Before making his speech, the Vice President made a surprise visit to Mayport in Jacksonville as sailors returned from overseas to be welcomed home by their families.

Canada Visit The President welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the White House Thursday to discuss the economy and make commitments to ease trade and travel between the two neighboring nations. The President also discussed Canada’s role in helping put Americans back to work. “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting people back to work and the important initiatives that we agreed to today will help us do just that.”

Kennedy Center Honors President Obama and the First Lady honored Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, Sonny Rollins, Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Cook for their lifelong contributions to the arts and thanked them for sharing their talents with the world.  The award winners were honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

Full Text December 4, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech Welcoming the 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House

Source: WH, 12-5-11
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the Kennedy Center Honors celebrating honorees Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep, Sonny Rollins, Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Cook at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. (by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and the First Lady last night welcomed the 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House where he praised their lifelong contributions to the arts, and thanked them for sharing their talents with the world:

At a time of year when Americans everywhere are counting their blessings, we want to give thanks to their extraordinary contributions.  They have been blessings to all of us.  We are grateful that they’ve chosen to share their gifts, to enrich our lives, and to inspire us to new heights.

Every year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrates individuals who have made a lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television. This year’s honorees are singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins and actress Meryl Streep. The President recognized the unique place each of the honorees holds in American culture and the importance of their work in American society:

So each of them have made these extraordinary contributions, and it’s worthwhile, then, for us to commit ourselves to making this a place where the arts can continue to thrive. Because right now, somewhere in America, there is a future Kennedy Center honoree — practicing on some phone books, or writing songs to impress a girl, or wondering if she can cut it on the big stage. Let’s make sure our young people can dream big dreams, and follow them as far as they can go. And let’s make sure the arts continue to be an important — no, a critical part of who we are in the kind of world that we want to live in.

Tonight, we congratulate all our extraordinary honorees.  Thank you very much

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors reception

President Barack Obama delivers remarks to celebrate the careers of, from left, Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, Sonny Rollins and Meryl Streep, during the Kennedy Center Honors reception in the East Room of the White House, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The Kennedy Center Honors 34th Annual National Celebration of the Arts will air on Tuesday, December 27 at 9:00 p.m. on CBS (ET/PT).

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Reception for Kennedy Center Honorees

The East Room

5:29 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good evening, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  What a spectacular looking crowd here.  (Laughter.)  I want to start by thanking David Rubenstein, Michael Kaiser, and the Kennedy Center Trustees, and everyone who has made the Kennedy Center such a wonderful place for so many people for so many years.  I also want to acknowledge my good friend, Caroline Kennedy, for continuing her family’s legacy of supporting the arts.  And finally, I want to thank the creator of the Kennedy Center Honors and the Co-Chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, George Stevens.  (Applause.)  George and his son, Michael, are still bringing this show to life after 34 years, and we are grateful to both of them.  So — (applause.)

Tonight, we honor five giants from the world of the arts — not just for a single role or a certain performance, but for a lifetime of greatness.  And just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that they’re over the hill.  (Laughter.)  It just means they’ve come a long way.

Now, at first glance the men and women on this stage could not be more different.  They come from different generations, different walks of life.  They have different talents, and they’ve traveled different paths.  And yet they belong here together.  Because each of tonight’s honorees has felt the need to express themselves and share that expression with the world.

It’s a feeling that all of us have at some point in our lives.  That’s why we sing, even if it’s just in the shower.  (Laughter.)  It’s why we act, even if we never get past the school auditorium.  That’s why we dance, even if, as Michelle says, I look silly doing it.  (Laughter.)  It’s one of the downsides of being President:  Your dance moves end up on YouTube.  (Laughter.)

But tonight’s honorees take it a step further.  By expressing themselves, they help us learn something about ourselves.  They make us laugh.  They move us to tears.  They bring us together, and they push the boundaries of what we think is possible.  And each of them has been blessed with an extraordinary gift.  Tonight, we thank them for sharing that gift with us.

Barbara Cook has been said to have the most magnificent voice in popular music.  But she was born into a family that didn’t know the first thing about singing.  Growing up, while the other kids in her neighborhood were out playing hide and seek, Barbara would be inside listening to opera on the radio.  By the time she was 23, Barbara was starring in her first Broadway show, and she went on to win a Tony for her performance as the original “Marian the Librarian” in “The Music Man.”

But success didn’t come without pain, and she faced more than her share of challenges before a show-stopping concert at Carnegie Hall in 1975 catapulted her back into the spotlight.  Barbara’s greatest strength has always been her ability to put her own feelings and experiences into her songs.  As she says, “If I sing about emotion, and you say, yes, I’ve felt that, too, then it brings us together, even if it’s just for a little while.”

These days, Barbara has been through enough to sing just about anything.  So now she teaches up-and-coming singers to do the same.  The lesson always starts with “Be yourself,” a piece of advice that she has always taken to heart.  Maybe that’s what has kept her so young.  And Barbara says that some days she feels like she is 30, and tonight you look like you’re 30.  (Laughter.)  Some days she feels like she’s 12, although her knee apparently does not agree.  (Laughter.)

All we know is that we’ve never heard a voice like hers, so tonight we Barbara — honor Barbara Cook.  (Applause.)

Neil Diamond’s songwriting career began like so many others — he was trying to impress a girl.  (Laughter.)  The difference was that it worked and he went on to marry the girl.  As Neil says, “I should have realized then the potential power of songs and been a little more wary.”  (Laughter.)

Even after such a promising start, music wasn’t Neil’s first choice.  He wanted to go to medical school and find a cure for cancer.  But then he met reality, which for him came in the form of organic chemistry.  (Laughter.)  Neil ended up dropping out of college to take a $50-a-week songwriting job, and the “Solitary Man” was born.  With a voice he describes as being full of gravel, potholes, left turns and right turns, he went on to sell more than 125 million records.  Elvis and Frank Sinatra asked to record versions of his songs, and today, Neil is the rare musician whose work can be heard everywhere from kids’ movies to Red Sox games.  (Laughter.)

When someone asked him why “Sweet Caroline” remains so popular, Neil said, “It’s because anybody can sing, no matter how many drinks you’ve had.”  (Laughter.)

Now, his shirts aren’t as flashy as they used to be — I noticed you’re buttoned up all the way to the top there.  (Laughter.)  Neil can still — (laughter) — (inaudible) — (laughter) — Neil can still put a generation of fans in their seats.

And so tonight, we honor one of the great American songwriters for making us all want to sing along.  Thank you, Neil Diamond.  (Applause.)

When Sonny Rollins was growing up, he and his friends would sneak into jazz clubs by drawing mustaches on themselves — (laughter) — with an eyebrow pencil — (laughter) — to try to look older.  Did that work, Sonny?  (Laughter.)  We don’t know if it fooled anybody, but they did get into the clubs.

Harlem in the 1930s was a hotbed of jazz, and for a young musician with a big horn and bigger dreams, it was heaven.  Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins lived around the corner.  Sonny learned melody and harmony from Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis was a regular playing partner.

It wasn’t long before Sonny earned the nickname “the Saxophone Colossus,” and became known as one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz.  Today, he often plays hour-long solos without any repetition, leaving audiences speechless.  People sometimes wonder how he can play for so long, but in Sonny’s words, “It just means there’s something out there, and I know I have to find it.”

Sonny also loves to roam the crowd during a performance.  One story goes that he was halfway through a solo one night when he jumped off the stage and disappeared.  (Laughter.)  Just when the band was about to go looking for him, the solo started back up.  Sonny had broken his foot and was lying on the floor, but he finished the set with so much energy and passion, the audience didn’t notice.

To hear Sonny tell it, he’s just keeping things pure.  “The worst thing in the world to me is to play by rote,” he says.  “You have to play from the inside; that’s real jazz.”

So tonight, we honor a real jazz master, Mr. Sonny Rollins.  (Applause.)

Meryl Streep was once described as a cross between a den-mother and a class cutup.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know who that was, but — (laughter.)

When a reporter asked Clint Eastwood why he chose Meryl to star opposite him in “The Bridges of Madison County,” he shrugged and replied, “She’s the greatest actor in the world.”  At 15, Meryl won the role of “Marian the Librarian” — there’s a theme here — (laughter) — in her high school’s production of “The Music Man,” following the footsteps of her idol, Barbara Cook.  (Laughter.)  That led to Yale drama school, and then to Hollywood, where Meryl won two Oscars in 4 years.  And then she turned 38 — (laughter) — which, in Washington at least, according to Meryl, is the sell-by date for Hollywood actresses.  And she remembers turning to her husband, Don, and saying, “Well, it’s over.”

Luckily, it was not over.  Since then, Meryl has tackled incredibly complex roles, ranging from Julia Child to, most recently, Margaret Thatcher.  Today, she’s the most nominated actress in the history of the Academy Awards.  She’s tossed aside more than a few stereotypes along the way.  Each of her roles is different, and different from what we expect Meryl Streep to be.  As she says, “I’ve picked the weirdest little group of personalities, but I think they’ve all deserved to have a life.”

For giving life to those characters and joy to so many of us, let’s give Meryl Streep a round of applause.  (Applause.)

One final honoree is something of a regular here at the White House.  I was telling him we need to give him a room.  (Laughter.)  The Blue Room, the Red Room, and the Yo-Yo Ma room.  (Laughter.)  We keep inviting him, and for some reason, he keeps on coming back.  (Laughter.)

When Yo-Yo Ma took his first cello lesson, there wasn’t a chair short enough for him, so he sat on three phone books instead.  By the age of 4, he was learning the Bach suites.  At age 7, he was performing for President Kennedy in this room.  Today, he has 16 Grammys and is considered one of the greatest classical musicians alive.

But maybe the most amazing thing about Yo-Yo Ma is that everybody likes him.  (Laughter.)  You’ve got to give me some tips.  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s remarkable.

In a profession known for, let’s face it, some temperament among its stars, Yo-Yo is a little different.  He named one of his 300 year old cellos “Petunia.”  He’s a big hugger.  (Laughter.)  For every question you ask him, he asks you two in return.  He’s been named one of People Magazine’s sexiest men alive.  (Laughter.)  He has appeared on Sesame Street; I thought about asking him to go talk to Congress.  (Laughter and applause.)

And yet, somehow, he’s also found the time to become one of the most innovative and versatile musicians in the world.  Yo-Yo likes to say that his goal is to take listeners on a trip with him and make a lasting connection.  His sense of curiosity has driven him to experiment from everything from the Argentine tango to Chinese folk music, and he has brought musicians from around the world together with the sheer force of his personality.  As he says, “If I know what music you love, and you know what music I love, we start out having a better conversation.”

The great Pablo Casals once described himself as a human being first, a musician second, and a cellist third.  There is no doubt that Yo-Yo Ma is a great musician and a great cellist, but tonight we also honor him because he is a great human being.

Thank you, Yo-Yo Ma.  (Applause.)

Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Sonny Rollins, Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma:  At a time of year when Americans everywhere are counting their blessings, we want to give thanks to their extraordinary contributions.  They have been blessings to all of us.  We are grateful that they’ve chosen to share their gifts, to enrich our lives, and to inspire us to new heights.

And I think, for all of us, each of us can probably remember some personal moment — Michelle, during the rope line, was talking about how her dad loved jazz and could hear Sonny Rollins blasting through their little house on South Side.  And it’s true — everybody sings Neil Diamond songs no matter how many drinks they’ve had.  (Laughter.)

Yo-Yo Ma, unfortunately my association with him is studying at law school, listening to Bach and his — no, it soothed my mind.  (Laughter.)

Meryl Streep, anybody who saw “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” had a crush on her.  I assume they — everybody remembers that.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m ad libbing here a little bit.  (Laughter.)

So each of them have made these extraordinary contributions, and it’s worthwhile, then, for us to commit ourselves to making this a place where the arts can continue to thrive.  Because right now, somewhere in America, there is a future Kennedy Center honoree — practicing on some phone books, or writing songs to impress a girl, or wondering if she can cut it on the big stage.  Let’s make sure our young people can dream big dreams, and follow them as far as they can go.  And let’s make sure the arts continue to be an important — no, a critical part of who we are in the kind of world that we want to live in.

Tonight, we congratulate all our extraordinary honorees.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
5:45 P.M. EST

History Buzz September 15, 2011: Michael Beschloss: Jacqueline Kennedy Recordings Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With President John F. Kennedy Transcript Excerpts

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

HISTORY INTERVIEWS: Recordings of Jacqueline Kennedy Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With JFK — Transcript & Excerpts

Source: PBS Newshour, 9-15-11

SUMMARY

The new book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never before heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964. Ray Suarez discusses the rare and intimate glimpse with presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who edited and annotated the book.

RAY SUAREZ: And to a rare and intimate glimpse into history.

The new book “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never-before-heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964, shortly after her husband’s assassination.

The tapes were released by daughter Caroline Kennedy in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.

Presidential historian and regular NewsHour guest Michael Beschloss edited and annotated the book, and he joins us now.

And, Michael, it was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life with JFK, life in the White House, and the life and times of the Kennedy administration.

What do you know now? What’s the most important thing you know now that you didn’t know before?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Well, the biggest thing, if we had talked a year ago, before I read this thing, I would have said Jacqueline Kennedy was a major figure obviously in JFK’s life and Kennedy’s Washington, did a lot for historic preservation, restored the White House, substituted the taste, perhaps, of Dwight Eisenhower, who had people like Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians play in the White House, for people like Pablo Casals.

But I wouldn’t have said that she was a major political figure in Kennedy administration. Now I would. One example of this is the number of times in this book where she runs down, say, someone like Dean Rusk, the secretary of state, says, “Jack, you should fire him.” And he says, “Well, maybe you’re right, but I can’t do it until 1964.”

She goes to Pakistan and there’s an ambassador of the United States she meets there, comes back, writes a letter at her husband’s behest that he sends on to the secretary of state. She had a lot more to do particularly with the personnel of this administration than think I would have thought.

RAY SUAREZ: We are taken into the back, private areas of the White House during some of the most tense times in the 1960s, for instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Jacqueline Kennedy tells historian and Kennedy insider Arthur Schlesinger about what those tense days were like for her and the family.

Let’s listen.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Right.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY, former first lady: But I said: “Please, don’t send me away to Camp David, you know, me and the children. Please don’t send me anywhere. If anything happens, we’re all going to say right here with you.”

And, you know — and I said, “Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House,” which I had seen, I said, “Please, then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, you know, but I just want to be with you and I want to die with you. And the children do, too, than live without you.”

RAY SUAREZ: It’s a reminder that this wasn’t kidding around. The world felt like it was right on the precipice. When the first lady says to the president, “I and the children want to die with you,” it was striking.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And be out on the lawn, not in a bomb shelter.

And the other thing is, it tells something about their marriage. In my experience studying presidents, the president doesn’t have a great marriage with the first lady and there’s a big political crisis, the president usually doesn’t want to spend very much time with his wife, would rather be around cronies or something.

John Kennedy’s first instinct when he knows about the Cuban Missile Crisis — it is in the book — he calls up Jackie, who is in Virginia. There’s something funny in his voice, she says. He says, “Please bring the children right now back to the White House,” even though they were taking naps.

And the next 13 days, they spent very much together, went strolling out on the lawn together. He had a very — she had a very large part in his life, obviously, but particularly at this moment he looked to her for security.

RAY SUAREZ: Two things shone out again and again, how much she admired Kennedy’s personality, his intellect, the way he related to people on the campaign trail and at times how unsure of her own value to him she really was. Take a listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I was always a liability to him until we got to the White House. And he never asked me to change or said anything about it. Everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.

And then because I was off and having these babies, I wasn’t able to campaign, be around him as much as I could have. And he’d get so upset for me when something like that came out. And, sometimes, I would say, “Oh, Jack, I wish — I’m so sorry for you that I’m just such a dud.”

RAY SUAREZ: Sure, she was a little unsure campaigning at the beginning, but she was anything but a liability, right?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: As it turned out.

But the Kennedy operatives in 1960 thought that she would be, that people would be put off, that she would seem too effete. Some of them wished that she would be more like Pat Nixon. One once said, we will run Mrs. Kennedy through subliminally, worried about her politically.

The biggest surprise to both of them is, she becomes first lady and she’s the most enormous celebrity in the country. Everyone wants to wear their hair like Jackie, the women do, and do their houses and imitate her in other ways. And the poignant thing is that, when they went to Texas at the end of the Kennedy presidency, he had pleaded with her to go with him because she was such a political asset.

RAY SUAREZ: The interesting thing about the times is that right behind her is Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: The model political wife of the time.

RAY SUAREZ: Waiting out just a little ways down the road are Lady Bird Johnson in her way, but also Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter. She seems on the edge of those two worlds, a helpmeet, a supporter, but also someone who is educated, quite sophisticated in her own right, and worried very much about how the burdens of the presidency were affecting her husband when she couldn’t help him.

Listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: And he cared so much. He didn’t care about his 100 days, but all those poor men who you would send off with all their hopes high and promises that we would back them. And there they were, shot down like dogs or going to die in jail.

And Bobby came over to see me and said, “Please stay very close to Jack. I mean, just be around all afternoon.” If I was going to take children out — in other words, don’t leave anywhere, just to sort of comfort him.

RAY SUAREZ: The Bay of Pigs had been a disaster for the very young Kennedy administration, and she was watching it weigh on her husband.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, just three months in.

And he came in with very grandiose expectations, and, suddenly, three months later, he’s accused of being an incompetent, can’t get this done, the invasion of Cuba. He weeps with her in a bedroom in the weekend house they had in Virginia.

And, also, you look at Kennedy’s medical records. His doctors felt that he had gone into a depression. So she felt very much part of her job throughout this presidency was buoying him up when he needed it, and he often did.

RAY SUAREZ: Also, she was incredibly young, raising young children, and pregnant several times during that both campaign and early White House phase, but, at the same time, a woman energized by the life that she was living emerges from the texts of the Schlesinger interviews.

By 1964, when this interview was done, she seems to be pretty much at peace with her role in White House. Take a listen:

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I always thought there was one thing merciful about the White House, which made up for the goldfish bowl and the Secret Service and all that, was that it was kind of — you were hermetically sealed or there was something protective against the outside world, I mean, as far as your private life went.

And I decided that was the best thing to do. Everyone should be trying to help Jack in whatever way they could. And that was the way I could do it the best, by making it always a climate of affection and comfort and detente when he came home.

RAY SUAREZ: Interesting that she was able to create privacy, when so many other first ladies more keenly feel that intrusion.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, that’s right.

And she didn’t want to go to the White House. She got very morose when he won, oddly enough, because she thought that life would wreck her family. And she was a woman of hugely strong will. And she basically said: I’m not going to be Mamie Eisenhower, campaigning and going to all these political and other kinds of banquets. My job is to support my husband, to raise my children well.

And she also took on for herself this huge project of restoring the White House, which she rightly felt when she encountered it looked like sort of a bad convention hotel which was full of B. Altman reproductions. She had to raise the money for it, huge project, so, all of that done at the same time. This was a woman who was very young, 31 when she became first lady, but of enormous accomplishment and talent.

RAY SUAREZ: A lot of the coverage over the last week has gone to her sharp and sometimes even a little snarky observations on the…

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: One or two.

RAY SUAREZ: Yes, the great and the good of her age. But that just shows that she was paying attention, doesn’t it?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: She was paying very close attention.

And if you looked at the oral history, if there was one, of a first lady that was more traditional, perhaps a Mamie Eisenhower, I doubt if she would have had independent opinions about a secretary of state or an ambassador, and fulfilled that role for her husband.

RAY SUAREZ: So what do we see in Jackie, a sort of hybrid?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think a hybrid, and I think you’re right in saying that she was a transitional figure.

She knew that she had to function in a period where people didn’t want to see her attending Cabinet meetings, which she had no interest in doing and didn’t. But, at the same time, she knew that that generation of woman could not any longer be content to be a Mamie Eisenhower or one of the earlier first ladies, who basically poured tea.

RAY SUAREZ: Michael Beschloss, thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Pleasure, Ray.

History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy & ABC’s In Her Own Words

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

BOOK NEWS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

 INTRODUCTION

Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

“My mother willingly recalled the span of her married life and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality.” — Caroline Kennedy wrote

JACKIE KENNEDY TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS

“Suddenly, everything that’d been a liability before — your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn’t just adore to campaign, and you didn’t bake bread with flour up to your arms — you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

“Renewals of love after brief separations”… “He loved having those children tumbling around him”… He never asked me to change”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “tricky” and a “phony”; “I said, ‘Oh, but Jack, that’s so terrible. I mean that man is a, you know, such a phony.’… He would never judge anyone in any sort of way. He never said anything against Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it. And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

France’s Charles de Gaulle: “egomaniac” and a “spiteful man” “He was so full of spite … I loathe the French, they’re really not very nice, they’re all for themselves.”

Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India: “prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

Sukarno, the former Indonesian president: a lecher, he left “a bad taste in your mouth.”

André Malraux, the French novelist: “The most fascinating man I’ve ever talked to.”

Colombian president, Alberto Lleras Camargo: “Nordic in his sadness.”

Mr. Kennedy on Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Charlatan is an unfair word,” but “he did an awful lot for effect.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Really, he kept us [as a nation] standing still.”

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower: “There was venom or something there.”

Pat Nixon: Kennedy said she worried that the public wanted her to get a “frizzy perm and be like Pat Nixon.”

Lady Bird Johnson: “trained hunting dog.”

On Lyndon Johnson as President: “Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?’ And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968”

On Lyndon B. Johnson, as a Vice President: “[He had] an enormous ego … [He] just didn’t do anything.”

On Johnson, after he took office as President: “People will think I’m bitter, but I just want it to be put in context the kind of president Jack was and Lyndon is.”

On her husband becoming President in 1961: “Once he was in control … all the best things would happen.”

On the Bay of Pigs invasion: “He started to cry … just with me. Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept. And, it was so sad. He cared so much … all those poor men.”

On the Cuban Missile Crisis in Octpber 1962 to JFK: “From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping…. If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. “[I told John] please don’t send me away to Camp David … Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen…. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you….
That was the time I was closest to him, I never left the house or saw the children. I stayed by his side.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver: “She wanted to be a cabinet wife.”

On Joseph Jr. as President: “He would have been so unimaginative, compared to Jack.”

On Democratic governor of Texas, John Connally: “Jack was so sweet. He sort of rubbed my back … and said, ‘You mustn’t say that, you mustn’t say that.’ If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you’ll act as if you hated him.”

White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen had a “big inferiority complex” and was “the last person you would invite at night.”…
“You know, Jack forgave so quickly, but I never forgave Ted Sorensen.” (On Sorenson encouraging the perception that he had ghostwritten her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage.’)

On being asked if Mr. Kennedy was religious: “Oh, yes. Well, I mean, he never missed church one Sunday that we were married or all that, but you could see partly — I often used to think whether it was superstition or not — I mean, he wasn’t quite sure, but if it was that way, he wanted to have that on his side.
It was just like a little childish mannerism, I suppose like brushing your teeth or something. But I thought that was so sweet. It used to amuse me so, standing there.”

“I think he probably did it … rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there.” — Jackie said JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.

“All these twisted poor little women whose lives hadn’t worked out … [They had] this queer thing for power…. resented getting their power through men
I get all my opinions from my husband, which is true. How could I have any political opinions? His were going to be the best…. Women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it.”

Schlesinger asks young John if he knows what happened to his father.
“He’s gone to heaven,” the boy replies.
Schlesinger asks what he remembers.
“I don’t remember ANY-thing,” John says playfully.

Jacqueline Kennedy recalled a 1962 White House conversation between Kennedy and historian David Donald about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency:
“‘Do you think’ – it’s the one thing that was on his mind — ‘would Lincoln have been as great a President if he’d lived?’ And Donald, really by going round and round, had agreed with him that Lincoln, you know, it was better — was better for Lincoln that he died when he did.”

HEADLINES & REVIEWS

“I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. And it really – the value of it is it is immediate, it is honest. I think that was very brave of her to do that and to be honest. But it’s got limitations. It’s just – it’s a primary source document. It’s like a diary or something like that, it’s really a snapshot.

This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest and she had always told us that she was going to put it away for 50 years.

There are flashes throughout where I hear her and there are parts to me where it sounds like it was a very long time ago, just the way she speaks and the things she said.

It was funny because my daughters listened to it too and they were just absolutely horrified… ‘Did she really think that?’ And of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize.” — Caroline Kennedy on ABC’s Good Morning America

  • Caroline Kennedy on Jacqueline Kennedy’s ‘Brave’ Tapes: My Daughters Were ‘Absolutely Horrified’ at Some OpinionsABC News, 9-14-11
  • In Tapes, Candid Talk by Young Kennedy Widow: The seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband’s presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994. The transcript and recording, obtained by The New York Times, offer an extraordinary immersion in the thoughts and feelings of one of the most enigmatic figures of the second half of the 20th century — the woman who, as much as anyone, helped shape a heroic narrative of the Kennedy years. Though the interviews seem unlikely to redraw the contours of Mr. Kennedy or his presidency, they are packed with intimate observations and insights of the sort that historians treasure…. – NYT, 9-12-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, Historic Conversations on Life with JFK: Hundreds of books have been written about the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Countless documentaries have been made, thousands of testimonials and oral histories given.
    But for almost 50 years, one voice was silent: Jacqueline Kennedy’s.
    Now, in an ABC News exclusive, Diane Sawyer will anchor a two-hour 20/20 special in September in which America will hear Jacqueline Kennedy’s conversations for the first time, put in context by historians and by the woman who knew her best: her own daughter…. – ABC News, 5-25-11
  • ABC News Kennedy Special Most Watched Program at 10pm: ABC News Special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” averaged 8.4 million Total Viewers and a 2.1 rating/5 share among Adults 25-54 and 1.5 rating/4 share among Adults 18-49 for its two-hour broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research. … – ABC News, 9-14-11
  • Did NBC spoil ratings for ABC’s Jackie Kennedy special?: Seventeen years after her death, Jacqueline Kennedy remains a big draw, especially with newly released recordings that find her dishing dirt on everyone from President Lyndon Johnson to Indian leader Indira Ghandi. But a rival network may have spoiled the big party ABC planned for the event.
    ABC’s two-hour special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” delivered 8.4 million total viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen. Host Diane Sawyer picked her way through hours of tapes the former first lady made with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in early 1964, just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. In the recordings, Jacqueline Kennedy glowingly recounts life with her husband but bashes leaders such as LBJ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles de Gaulle…. – LAT, 9-14-11
  • Jackie Kennedy Book Shoots to No. 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, debuted at #1 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists today, its first official release day. Early leaks of the book, which contains the transcript and CDs of the audio recordings of 8.5 hours of interviews Jackie Kennedy did with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger in March 1964, less than four months after the assassination of President John Kennedy, had been the subject of intense media jockeying over the last week. The book also contains introductory essays from Caroline Kennedy and presidential writer Michael Beschloss.
    The book was under a strict sales embargo to protect the exclusive for ABC News’ Diane Sawyer-hosted special, Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, that aired last night. Some bookstores broke the embargo and The New York Times, the AP, and NBC News acquired early copies last week. Much to the dismay of executives at Disney and ABC, NBC aired audio excerpts on Friday night’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williamsand followed with additional reports on MSNBC over the next few days. The publicity surrounding the ABC-NBC squabble and the early leaks certainly helped book sales. Eleven days ago, the book was not on Amazon’s Top 100 sellers list but as the publicity grew it steadily rose through the rankings to land at No. 1 today…. – Hollywood Reporter, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words.
    In the just-released book and audiotapes, made from interviews she gave almost 50 years ago, we get these examples…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: Now we know why Jackie Kennedy was such a sought-after dinner guest. It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • In Her Own Words: Audio Tapes Reveal New Details of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Life: Jaqueline Kennedy is forever enduring in the national memory for her poise, grace, and impeccable style. But little is known about how she really felt about her years in the White House and of her relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Now, the world is privy to rare details of the presidency and private life thanks to an oral history of the president, conducted with the widowed First Lady in early 1964, just months after his assassination.
    The 8.5-hour-long series of audio interviews, as well as transcripts, are being released this week as a book entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The interviews were conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a historian and Kennedy aide who was close to the family. Previously locked up in the Kennedy Library, the tapes are being released 47 years after they were first conducted. They’re chock-full of juicy gossip and surprising details of the iconic couple’s life…. – Time, 9-12-11
  • New book and audiotapes show new and more personal side to Jackie Kennedy: It’s a side of Jacqueline Kennedy only friends and family knew. Funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting.
    In “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” the former first lady was not yet the jet-setting celebrity of the late 1960s or the literary editor of the 1970s and 1980s. But she was also nothing like the soft-spoken fashion icon of the three previous years. She was in her mid-30s, recently widowed, but dry-eyed and determined to set down her thoughts for history.
    Kennedy met with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in her 18th-century Washington house in the spring and early summer of 1964. At home and at ease, as if receiving a guest for afternoon tea, she chatted about her husband and their time in the White House. The young Kennedy children, Caroline and John Jr., occasionally popped in. On the accompanying audio discs, you can hear the shake of ice inside a drinking glass. The tapes were to be sealed for decades and were among the last documents of her private thoughts. She never wrote a memoir and became a legend in part because of what we didn’t know.
    The book comes out Wednesday as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office. Jacqueline Kennedy died in 1994, and Schlesinger in 2007…. – AP, 9-13-11
  • Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy: Tomorrow Hyperion will release a set of Jacqueline Kennedy oral histories in book and audio format. The Times yesterday published excerpts from the tapes and tonight ABC will air a two-hour special on them. Mrs. Kennedy’s candid remarks about members of her husband’s Administration and other public figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., have already generated much controversy and discussion…. – New Yorker, 9-13-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy’s candid look at life with JFK: In the conversations, Kennedy, then 34 years old, also recalls her time in the White House with her husband, John F. Kennedy, as “our happiest years.” The tapes, which have been kept under seal at the Kennedy Library, were released by Caroline Kennedy, 53, who was editor of the book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, being published this week by Hyperion. Conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy friend and aide, the interviews capture both the intimacy and Cold War tensions at the Kennedy White House…. – USA Today, 9-14-11
  • Will the Jackie Kennedy Tapes Change the Way You Think of Camelot? Audio tapes and book reveal a seven-part interview with Jackie Kennedy conducted in 1964: A 1964 seven-part interview between Jackie Kennedy and Kennedy historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was published as a book and audio tapes Wednesday. The interview was conducted soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination as part of an oral history of the Kennedy presidency. The tapes were kept under wraps at the first lady’s request, but were finally released by her daughter Caroline to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.
    The tapes provide an intimate look of the marriage between Jackie and the president, as well as her perspective on the people and events that made up the “Camelot” era. In excerpts released in advance, she warmly recalls the 45 minute naps President Kennedy would take—in his pajamas—in the middle of each day. She also recounts the anxiety of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which she says she told her husband, “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too—than live without you.”
    Some of her remarks in the interview are much more controversial. She calls French President Charles de Gaulle an “egomaniac,” civil rights leader Martin Luther King a “phony,” and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi “a real prune—bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.” She also remembers the president saying of his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?”
    Some who have already heard the tapes describe them as “explosive.”… – US News, 9-12-11
  • ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words’: Did Diane Sawyer’s special change your opinions about Jackie O?: On the eve of the release of historian Michael Beschloss’ new book, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, Diane Sawyer hosted a two-hour long special chronicling the previously unheard eight-and-a-half hours worth of audio of the former First Lady.
    The ABC special — watch it here — featured the revealing interviews that historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. conducted with Mrs. Kennedy just four months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well Sawyer’s interview with Caroline Kennedy, who revealed why she opted to release the tapes to the public now…. – EW, 9-14-11
  • Listening to the other voice in the Jackie Kennedy interviews: The voice of Jackie Kennedy’s interviewer belongs to the late historian and former JFK aide Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., whose writings are again timely in this tea-party era. He noted that the Founding Fathers embraced government as a vital help, not an obstacle, to progress…. — CS Monitor, 9-15-11
  • Jackie: JFK mused on own assassination: John F. Kennedy joked about his own possible assassination in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to recently released tapes of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
    The tapes, which were the product of conversations with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in the spring and early summer of 1964, have been released in book form as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office…. – CBS News, 9-14-11

    HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

    “It’s certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on. By then, she’s a different woman.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian and wife of Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy aide, said in an interview

    The Jackie Kennedy tapes: Catty, but won’t change history: “If people are looking for revelations about her, they will not find them. What I think they reveal is an unerring, all-observing eye…. She did not want to be implored and lobbied by people who wanted her to influence policy, so she assumed a public persona of the ‘anti-Eleanor Roosevelt.’ She was very tactical — almost like a spy.” — Carl Anthony, one of the country’s leading experts on first ladies — WaPo, 9-12-11

    “This book shows Jackie Kennedy unplugged. A lot of the rawness of her feelings, I think, as a young woman — she’s is only in her 30s when she is doing these tapes in 1964 — is very different from the more poised and discreet Jackie Kennedy we got to know in the 1980s and 1990s….
    I “was close to Arthur Schlesinger, the professor. He died a few years ago. Ted Sorensen, one of the other keepers of the flame, died, and I think Caroline Kennedy thought, it’s the 50th anniversary right now of the Kennedy presidency, and this is sitting there, and it was time to let her mother have her say, and decided to come public with this.” — Historian and CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley on the “Early Show”

    Michael Beschloss: I was surprised that she seemed to have so much influence on JFK’s attitudes toward the people who worked for him. For instance, she she says she disliked Secretary of State Dean Rusk and wished JFK would fire him. He told her he intended to do so in 1964. Others she admired, like Robert McNamara, the Defense Secretary, did extremely well in the Kennedy government. She may not have been the only reason, but what she privately told JFK didn’t hurt. There are many other instances of this in the book.

    Her voice has been virtually missing from the thousands of books written about the Kennedys in the past half-century. After all that’s been written about her, it’s illuminating to listen to her speak for herself without that kind of filter.

    She occasionally would stop the recorder and ask Schlesinger if she should discuss such-and-such. As he later recalled, he almost always told her, “Say everything — you control the tape.” — EW, 9-14-11

    Catherine Allgor: Historian Offers Insight on Jacqueline Kennedy: Catherine Allgor, UC Riverside expert on American first ladies, calls Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a “woman of her time and place.”
    Jackie Kennedy, Allgor says, “was a woman of her time and place.” “Her articulateness, her insight, her apparent education juxtaposes uneasily with her little-girl wistfulness and her aching insecurity. The Jacqueline we see in photographs and waving at crowds gives an impression of confident command, but the woman so happy that she has made her husband proud has more in common with her infamous relative, ‘Little Edie’ of Grey Gardens (the rundown mansion where Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and first cousin, Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale and Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale lived). Both were women of refinement and intelligence trapped in privileged worlds ruled by men. Both tug at the heart strings.”
    Popular consensus is that the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes won’t add much to our understanding of that period of U.S. history, Allgor says. She disagrees: “That depends on whose history. Her remarks about her marriage and how she felt about herself, about men and women, show Americans how much feminism changed our lives, and how far we have to go.” — UCR Newsroom, 9-14-11

History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy Book & Transcript Excerpts

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

INTRODUCTION

Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

JACKIE KENNEDY TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS

On her husband’s opinion of Lyndon Johnson:

“Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God can you ever imagine what would happen if Lyndon was president?’

“Jack would say you could never get an opinion out of Lyndon at any cabinet or national security meeting. He’d just say, you know, that he agreed with them – with everyone – or just keep really quiet.

“So Lyndon, as vice-president, didn’t just do anything.”

On Charles de Gaulle and France

“De Gaulle was my hero when I married Jack,” she says.

But after meeting the French leader during a May 1961 visit, she says she found him “so full of spite”.

She also says: “I loathe the French… They are not very nice, they are all for themselves.”

On fears during the Cuban Missile Crisis

“I went up and listened and eavesdropped [to a debate on the issue]. I could hear [Former Secretary of Defence Robert] McNamara saying something and then I thought I must not listen and went away. But from then on it seemed there was no waking or sleeping.

“And I just don’t know which day was which. And I never left the house or saw the children and when he came home if it was for sleep or for a nap I would sleep with him.

“Please don’t send me away to Camp David. Please don’t send me anywhere, if anything happens we’re all going to stay right here with you. Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen I said then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, well I just want to be with you and I just want to die with you and the children do too.”

On JFK joking about the threat of assassination

“And then I remember Jack saying after the Cuban missile crisis, when it all turned [out] so fantastically, he said, ‘Well, if anyone’s ever going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.'”

On her husband

“I just wish he could have seen some more good things come in, that he worked so hard for. The tax bill, the civil rights bill, the economy up so high.

“He really did so much. There wasn’t that much more to do, except it would have gelled.”

“Once I asked him – I think this is rather touching – if he could have one wish, what would it be? In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, ‘I wish I had more good times.'”

On JFK’s reaction to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba

“He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one – just put his head in his hands and sort of wept.

“It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much.”

On Martin Luther King

“I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

On entering the White House

“I was always a liability to him [John F Kennedy], everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.”

“When we got in the White House all the things that I’d always done suddenly became wonderful. And I was so happy for Jack. He could be proud of me then because it made him so happy. Made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

On JFK meeting Winston Churchill in the 1950s

“Jack had always wanted to meet Churchill. Well, the poor man was really quite ga-ga then.

“I felt so sorry for Jack that evening because he was meeting his hero, only he met him too late.”

On future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

She calls Ms Gandhi a “bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

FOREWARD BY CAROLINE KENNEDY

In 1964, as part of an oral history project on the life and career of John F. Kennedy, my mother sat down with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., to share her memories and insights. Recorded less than four months after the death of her husband, they represent a gift to history and a labor of love on her part. In order to treat them with the appropriate respect, my children and I took very seriously the decision to publish them now, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. The moment seems right—enough time has passed so that they can be appreciated for their unique insight, yet the Kennedy presidency is still within living memory for many who will find her observations illuminating. I hope too that younger generations who are just learning about the 1960s will find these reminiscences a useful introduction to how history is made, and will be inspired to give back to this country that has given us all so much.

When I was growing up, my mother spent much of her time meeting behind closed doors with members of my father’s administration, planning his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, making sure that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would reflect his commitment to our country’s cultural heritage, executing his wishes for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the Institute of Politics, and making countless decisions on the disposition of my father’s official papers, personal effects, mementos, and memorabilia. She was determined that the Kennedy Library would be a living memorial, a place where students would be inspired to pursue careers in public service, where scholars would have access to the historical record, and where families could learn about the ideals that animated my father’s career and his vision for America. These meetings were somewhat mysterious, but my brother and I had a sense that nothing was more important than the “oral history” that we heard about from time to time.

My parents shared a love of history. To them, the past was not an academic concern, but a gathering of the most fascinating people you could ever hope to meet. My father’s interests were political—I still have his books on the Civil War and English parliamentary history, as well as his annotated copy of The Federalist Papers. My mother thought there weren’t enough women in American history to make it as interesting as reading novels and diaries from the courts of Europe. She read War and Peace during the Wisconsin primary, and maintained that reading the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon about life at Versailles was the most valuable preparation she received for life in the White House.

After my father’s death, my mother resolved to do everything she could to make sure that the record of his administration was preserved. She had confidence that his decisions would stand the test of time and wanted future generations to learn what an extraordinary man he was. She helped set in motion one of the most extensive oral history projects ever conducted up to that time, in which more than one thousand people were interviewed about their life and work with John F. Kennedy. Although it was painful for my mother to relive the life since shattered, she knew it was important that she participate. She always told us that she chose to be interviewed by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, former Harvard professor, and special assistant to President Kennedy, because she was doing this for future generations, and that was why she put the tapes in a vault to be sealed for fifty years.

I first read transcripts of these conversations a few weeks after my mother’s death in 1994 when the vault was opened and her lawyer gave me a copy. Everything about that time was overwhelming for me as I found myself faced with the same sorts of decisions about her possessions that she had made thirty years earlier. Knowing her wishes for the oral history made it easy—I knew I was reading something that wasn’t supposed to be seen yet—and although I found it fascinating, I put it back in the vault to await its time.

A few years ago, my family began thinking about how to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. We decided to concentrate our efforts on projects that would make his legacy accessible worldwide. Working with the staff of the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation and generous private partners, my husband led the effort to create the largest existing digital archive of a presidency, as well as online curricula, downloadable exhibits, and a Web site—www.jfk50.org—intended to renew my father’s call to service for today’s generation.

The publication of these interviews is an important contribution to this commemorative effort, and one with its own story. When the director of the Kennedy Library first approached me with the idea, I asked him to search the archives to confirm my mother’s wishes regarding the date of publication. Surprisingly, given the importance of the material, there was no deed of gift or transfer, nor a letter of intent regarding the date at which the interviews were to be opened. There was only a brief notation by a former government archivist that these interviews were “subject to the same restrictions as the Manchester interviews.” By way of background, there are three significant interviews that my mother gave after my father’s death. The first was to Theodore H. White in Hyannis Port on November 29, 1963, only a few days after my father’s funeral. In that interview, my mother famously told White that she and my father used to listen to the record of the Broadway musical Camelot in the evening before they went to bed, and looking back, “that one brief shining moment” reminded her of his presidency. White’s article was published a week later in Life magazine, but the notes of his interview were sealed until one year after my mother’s death. They are now open to researchers at the Kennedy Library in Boston.

The second set of conversations was with William Manchester, who was writing a book called The Death of a President. During the sessions my mother said more about my father’s assassination than she had intended. Subsequently, she became so upset at the thought of her personal memories becoming public that she sued the author and publisher to keep them out of the book. A settlement was reached, and although much of the content made its way into the public sphere, the notes of the interviews were sealed for 100 years—that is, until 2067.

By far the most important were these oral history conversations with Arthur Schlesinger in which my mother willingly recalled the span of her married life, and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality. The archivist’s notation regarding the date of publication was not consistent with my memory, nor did it seem to reflect my mother’s wishes. I checked with former members of her staff in the White House and afterward, as well as other friends and attorneys. No one had a recollection that differed from mine, and they were enthusiastic about the idea of publication.

So I was faced with a dilemma that I have confronted numerous times in connection with my mother’s personal papers and correspondence. On one hand, she was a famously private person who gave no on-the-record interviews (other than these three) about life in the White House, and requested in her will that my brother and I make every effort to prevent publication of her personal papers, letters, and writings.

However, she also saved every scrap of paper that came her way—every birthday card or telegram, every letter from her parents, every date book and diary, every draft letter or memo she ever wrote. She knew that living in the White House was an enormous privilege and she was proud of the part she had played. Early on, when she discovered that one of her secretaries was throwing out notes and internal correspondence that chronicled both daily life and the official workings of the mansion, she wrote a steaming rebuke—directing everyone on her staff to save even the smallest scribbles. Her deep immersion in memoirs of the past informed her belief that she had an obligation to preserve everything that happened during her time in the White House. In the years since her death, I have asked myself the question, When does someone no longer belong to you, but belong to history? Few people have been written about more than my mother, and I grew up feeling I needed to protect her—just as she had protected us. So at first I thought it best to leave these interviews sealed for another fifty years, rather than to expose her memory to one more round of gossip and speculation. But I also understand that the continuing interest in her life is a tribute to the immense admiration and goodwill she still commands, and I believe that open access to government is an important American value.

Over the years, I have received multiple requests to publish my mother’s memos and correspondence. At times, it has been difficult to balance her wish for privacy against her public role and pay proper respect to both. Although I agonize over each request, I know that my mother trusted my judgment and felt that I understood her outlook on life. As the years pass, it has become less painful to share her with the world, and in fact, it is a privilege. As her child, it has sometimes been hard for me to reconcile that most people can identify my mother instantly, but they really don’t know her at all. They may have a sense of her style and her dignified persona, but they don’t always appreciate her intellectual curiosity, her sense of the ridiculous, her sense of adventure, or her unerring sense of what was right. Over time, I have tried to draw the line between her public and private life much as I think she did—I try to accommodate requests that pertain to my father’s career, life in the White House, historic events and historic preservation, while denying permission for publication of her writings as a private citizen—whether as a young woman or a working editor.

These conversations are not in the same category as her personal writings, because they were recorded with the intention that they would be made accessible one day. So it was not a question of whether to publish but a question of when, and the decision was up to me. My experience with other requests informed my decision that the time was right.

In reaching this conclusion, I found it helpful to remember the context in which the interviews were conducted, and the timing of when they occurred. The goal was to create a record of my father’s life and career from the memories of those who knew and worked with him. Accordingly, the questions follow a loosely chronological sequence beginning with my father’s early political battles in Massachusetts, his 1956 fight for the vice-presidential nomination, the 1960 campaign, the transition to the presidency, the Inauguration, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, official and family life in the White House, and plans for the 1964 campaign and a second term. Along the way, there are discussions that reveal much about the central characters and events of the time in both domestic politics and international affairs.

The decision was complicated by my conviction that if my mother had reviewed the transcripts, I have no doubt she would have made revisions. She was a young widow in the extreme stages of grief. The interviews were conducted only four months after she had lost her husband, her home, and her sense of purpose. She had two young children to raise alone. It isn’t surprising that there are some statements she would later have considered too personal, and others too harsh. There are things I am sure she would have added, and her views certainly evolved over time. I struggled with the question of whether to delete remarks that might be taken out of context. I was aware that my intentions might be misinterpreted, even if the edited version was a more “accurate” reflection of how she really felt. After much deliberation, I decided to maintain the integrity of the audio interviews as a primary source while editing the text slightly for readability, not content, as has been done with other presidential transcripts and oral history interviews.

My reservations were mitigated by the remarkable immediacy and the informality of the conversations. Knowing my mother so well, I can hear her voice in my mind when I read her words on a page. I can tell when she is emotional, when she is enjoying herself, or is getting annoyed—though she is unfailingly polite. Even though most of her answers are about my father, by listening to the audio, people will learn a great deal about the person that she was. Much is revealed by her tone, and by her pauses as well as by her statements. I trust that readers and listeners will place her views in context to build an accurate and composite portrait of a person and a moment in time, and that her devotion to her husband will come through to others as it does to me.

In addition to their passion for history, my parents shared a conviction that American civilization had come of age. Today this seems an unremarkable proposition, but at the time the United States was just emerging as a global power, and people still looked to Europe for direction and leadership. My parents believed America should lead with her ideals, not just with economic or military power, and they wanted to share our artistic and cultural achievements with the world. My mother played a critical role in the development of what is now called “soft diplomacy.” She traveled with my father and on her own, often speaking the language of the countries she visited. She was an international sensation.

She also understood that the White House itself was a powerful symbol of our democracy, and wanted to make sure it projected the best of America to students and families who visited, as well as to foreign heads of state who were entertained there. She worked hard—not to “redecorate,” a word she hated—but to “restore” the White House so that the legacy of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln would be visible. She recast the White House Library to showcase classic works of American history and literature. She established the Fine Arts Committee and White House Historical Association to assemble a permanent collection of American paintings and decorative arts that would become one of the nation’s finest. She made the White House the world’s greatest stage and invited the world’s foremost artists to perform there. She welcomed young musicians, emerging African-American opera singers, jazz musicians, and modern dancers—all to awaken and expand appreciation for American arts and culture.

She felt strongly that as our capital city, Washington, D.C., should reflect America’s newly prominent place in the world. She fought to preserve Lafayette Square, and launched the effort to rehabilitate Pennsylvania Avenue—an effort that has been sustained ever since. My mother understood that the past was a source of pride for people around the world, just as it is in America, and convinced my father that the United States could build goodwill among countries like Egypt, with which we had political differences, by assisting in their historic preservation efforts. Her persistence resulted in a generous U.S. contribution to the UNESCO rescue of the temples of Abu Simbel, which were threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam, and favorably impressed the Nasser regime. In another example of cultural diplomacy, my mother was responsible for the Mona Lisa’s visit to the United States, the only time the painting has ever left the Louvre.

Most important, she believed her responsibility was to help my father in every way she could. Although she became a diplomatic and even a political asset, she never thought she deserved the title “First Lady,” which she disliked anyway, claiming it sounded like the name of a racehorse. But she was deeply patriotic and proud of what she accomplished, and my father was proud of her too. Their time in the White House was the happiest of her life.

Given the important role Jacqueline Kennedy played in the presidency of John F. Kennedy and its aftermath, it seemed a disservice to let her perspective remain absent from the public and scholarly debate that would accompany the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy administration. Fifty years seems a sufficient time for passions to have cooled, yet recent enough that the world described still has much to teach us. The sense of time passing was made more acute by the loss of my uncle Teddy and my aunt Eunice in 2009, by Ted Sorensen in 2010, and my uncle Sarge in January 2011.

But, before making the final decision, I asked my children to read the transcripts and tell me what they thought. Their reactions were not so different from my own. They found the conversations dated in many ways—but fascinating in many more. They loved the stories about their grandfather, and how insightful yet irreverent their grandmother was. They were puzzled by some of Arthur Schlesinger’s questions—personal rivalries he pursued and particular issues that have not stood the test of time. They wished that he had asked more questions about her.

But they came away with the same conclusions that I had reached—there was no significant reason to put off publication and no one speaks better for my mother than she does herself.

—NEW YORK, 2011

On This Day in History… January 20, 1961 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S INAUGURATION

https://i2.wp.com/i.usatoday.net/communitymanager/_photos/the-oval/2011/01/20/Kennedyx-large.jpg

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated the 35th president of the United States.

  • 50 years later, JFK’s words resonate: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country . . .”
    It’s been 50 years since the phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address first resonated from Capitol Hill and challenged Americans to take pride and be willing to sacrifice in making the world a better place. The fourth-shortest inaugural address delivered by a U.S. president, Kennedy’s 14-minute speech promoted public service and was a catalyst to programs such as the Peace Corps and NASA’s push to send astronauts to the moon… –  Boston Herald, 1-20-11

QUOTES

  • 50 Years Later, JFK’s Inaugural Address Continues to Resonate: On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, watch an excerpt of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the steps of the Capitol that began his presidency on Jan. 20, 1961.:
    U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge, but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. Remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof, let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let both sides explore what problems unite us, instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
    Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
    Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
    And, so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
    With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that, here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)….
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  • President Barack Obama: “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”
President Obama delivered remarks on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

HEADLINES

  • Kennedy’s Inauguration Still Captivates, 50 Years Later PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • Why Is JFK’s Legacy So Enduring? PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years Later, Why Is America Still In Love With JFK?: On a frigid day, exactly 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy took office with the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The world had high hopes for this dashing fellow from Boston — at just 43, the youngest president elected to office, and the only Catholic. While other presidents’ anniversaries come and go without fanfare, Kennedy will be honored this week with celebrations worthy of a king…. – MSNBC, 1-19-11
  • Robert Frost and J.F.K., Fifty Years Later: It was a bright and blustery day in Washington fifty years ago today for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. An old newsreel reporting the day’s events notes that the city was recovering from a blizzard and that “battalions of snow fighters kept Pennsylvania Avenue clear for the swearing-in ceremony.” That earnest footage also communicates the enthusiasm that accompanied the event for many in the country. It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us. Nixon, recently defeated, even manages to smile brightly. Yet it was a new day, a new age: Kennedy was, at forty-three, then the youngest President and the first born in the twentieth century. (The past, though, had not been completely thrown off, judging by the top hats that Eisenhower and Kennedy wore to some of the festivities.)
    The anniversary marks Kennedy’s brief but era-defining inauguration address, but it also marks another coming together of custom and modernity, of the past and the future: the eighty-six-year-old Robert Frost reciting “The Gift Outright,” which ends with the lines: 

    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    New Yorker, 1-20-11

  • JFK: Great man, great liberal, great American, great goals, great nation: Today America celebrates the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy assuming the presidency with Kennedy remaining the most popular president of the last 50 years. Let’s end the mythology that America is moving to the right. In a Gallup poll released in December, Americans gave John F. Kennedy an approval rating of 85 percent, the highest of any of the nine presidents who have served in the last 50 years…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years After the New Frontier Dawned, a Toast to Kennedy: On Thursday in the nation’s capital, the guest of honor was in effect President John F. Kennedy, who had been inaugurated 50 years earlier. And 15 members of Kennedy’s White House staff gathered for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the Capitol where he gave his famous speech, to celebrate the anniversary and reminisce…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Biden, others celebrate 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration: Vice President Biden led the celebration on Capitol Hill today for the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961. The celebration included remarks from Caroline Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and House Speaker John Boehner…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
Caroline Kennedy on Jan. 13, 2011, in Washington.
  • Congress pays tribute to 50th anniversary of JFK’s inaugural address: Congressional leaders today paused to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that motivated a nation 50 years ago. In the rotunda of the US Capitol, congressional officials, aides, and Kennedy family members listened in silence to the 14-minute, 1,355-word speech that Kennedy delivered on a blustery day in 1961. Top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – attended the event.
    “Sadly, this is the first congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration,” Boehner said, before looking over at the president’s daughter. “Caroline, there’s still time.”
    Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, both delivered remarks. “It took President Kennedy just 1,355 words to summon a new generation and set in motion generations of service and sacrifice – to reignite the fires of idealism and patriotism in millions of Americans,” Kerry said…. – Boston Globe, 1-20-11
  • Obama celebrates JFK’s ‘unfinished life’: President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the “unfinished life” of John F. Kennedy and said his inauguration 50 years ago and his accompanying call for Americans to serve their country still “inspires us and lights our way.” “We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible,” Obama said. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States”.
    Obama confessed that “I don’t have my own memories of that day.” But, Obama said, “even now, one half-century later, there is something about that day, Jan. 20, 1961, that feels immediate, feels new and urgent and exciting, despite the graininess of the 16-millimeter news reels that recorded it for posterity.” He said Kennedy could have a chosen a different life, one of luxury, but that he opted instead for one of leadership and idealism, “soaring but sober that inspired the country and the world” five decades ago….
    “I can only imagine how he must have felt entering the Oval Office in turbulent times,” Obama said, as the audience applauded and laughed. He said Kennedy led a “volatile America, in this tinderbox of a world,” with a steady hand, “defusing the most perilous crisis since the Cold War without firing a single shot.” “He knew that we, as a people, can do big things. We can reach great heights. We can rise to any challenge, so long as we’re willing to ask what we can do for our country,” Obama said, recreating one of the more memorable lines from Kennedy’s inaugural address. – AP, 1-20-11
  • At the Kennedy Center, Gratitude to a President Fond of the Arts: President Obama and performing arts luminaries gathered at the Kennedy Center Thursday night to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, with many paying homage to the inspiration they drew from the slain president. In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama characterized Mr. Kennedy as a visionary leader who made ardent strides in nuclear disarmament, civil rights, and space exploration in a “tinderbox of a land.”
    “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect,” Mr. Obama said “Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid: Honoring JFK’s legacy: The whole world watched with excitement and expectation in 1961 when Senator John and Jacqueline Kennedy moved into the White House with their young family. No one noticed when I first came to Washington the same year. I was a law student, a new father and to make ends meet, a Capitol Police Officer.
    At the end of those long days, I would often pass the White House on my way home. I can still vividly remember seeing Caroline’s pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn.
    Fifty years later, it is a great privilege to be with Caroline – as well as the Vice President, Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Secretary Chao, and all of you – to remember the history and the hope of Caroline’s father’s presidency.
    We also remember and honor President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who led an exemplary life of public service, and who did so much for so many who had so little. We extend our condolences to his loved ones…. – The Hill, 1-20-11

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • Thurston Clarke: Passing the Torch to a New Generation 50 Years Ago a Young John F. Kennedy Took the Oath of Office, Changing the Presidency – and a Nation – Forever: “Not just the youngest elected but also the first Catholic,” notes historian Thurston Clarke. “And also elected by the slimmest vote, majority in the popular vote. And so that’s another reason that he had to give a speech for the ages. A speech that would unite the country.”…
    “You had all of the celebrities in Washington,” said Clarke. “You had a feeling that this was a gathering of the best and the brightest in the country.”…
    “I think you would find that John Kennedy contributed most of the passages and the famous words that we remember: ‘The torch has been passed to a new generation.’ The “Ask not’ line. ‘Bear any burden.’ All of those were Kennedy. He had a Sorenson draft in front of him. On January 10th he flew to Palm Beach, he looked at the draft, and he dictated his changes and his additions to the draft.”…
    “People remember this as a kind of Cold War speech because of ‘We’ll pay any price, bear any burden,'” said Clarke. “But most of the rest of the speech was about peace and about negotiations and about the threat of nuclear war.”…
    “When Kennedy said, ‘Ask not,’ people knew that this was a man who’d been decorated in World War II,” said Clarke. “Who’d almost lost his life trying to save the surviving crew members of PT-109. So it wasn’t Where does he get off saying ‘Ask not’? He had the credentials to make this claim on people.”…
    “I think what we do – what John Kennedy did – is we compartmentalize things,” said Clarke. “There was so much that was accomplished, that was on its way to being accomplished. We put this in one compartment. And then we have the other compartment, is this terribly reckless sexual life.”…
    “I think it’s what we thought could have happened,” said Clarke, “because in the last 100 days of his life he was suddenly beginning to have the courage to do the things that were going to make him a great president. And one was the civil rights bill and the other was the test ban treaty.
    “But the beginning of his presidency – and what turned out to be the end of his presidency – were both times when the American people hoped that … this president was going to solve their problems, and was going to become what he hoped to be, which was a great president.”… – CBS News, 1-16-11
  • E.J. DIONNE JR.: JFK’s words: The torch still burns: It’s remembered as a day chilled by “a Siberian wind knifing down Pennsylvania Avenue” and illuminated by “the dazzling combination of bright sunshine and deep snow.” On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration…. – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?: The John F. Kennedy inaugural address was 50 years ago to the day – on Jan. 20, 1961. It remains an iconic American speech and is the subject of Google’s Thursday home-page doodle. Google’s logo is drawn using words that Mr. Kennedy used on that historic day.
    How good was Kennedy’s inaugural address? Very. Historians generally rank it as one of the four best US presidential inaugural speeches of all time. William Safire, former New York Times columnist and Nixon speechwriter, included it in a volume he compiled of the greatest speeches delivered in history, writing that it “set the standard by which presidential inaugurals have been judged in the modern era.”… – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • JFK and Obama: Their Similarities and Differences: History shows that despite their differences in ideology, most U.S. presidents have qualities in common with their predecessors. On this fiftieth anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, President Obama is marking the midpoint of his four-year term in office. The comparisons are inevitable as Mr. Obama begins the third year of his presidency, a year in office that Kennedy left unfinished… – CBS News, 1-20-11
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