John & Jackie

John & Jackie

An American Life Dec 29, 2023

The story of the beloved President and First Lady, whose time in office was deemed America’s own ‘Camelot’.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy — for many, the name is reminiscent of a figure of publicity, poise, charm, and beauty. From her youth as a prize-winning equestrian, trained ballerina, cunning schoolgirl, and beautiful debutant, Jackie was no ‘ordinary’ girl. She had privilege and status, not to mention a father who flouted all the rules, and yet, it was clear from a young age Jackie was going to make her own way in the world. Jackie would do what Jackie wanted to do, and that was that.

Ever the reader and writer, after graduating from several prestigious schools, her first order of business was to become a journalist. Her column was called ‘The Inquiring Camera Girl’. She used photos and answers from people she met on the street to piece together the public attitude of the day. As she worked her way up in the papers, she was able to cover President Eisenhower’s first inauguration and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with her handy little camera and notepad. It was during this time, when she was interviewing many prominent public and political figures of the day, that she first encountered Senator John F. Kennedy.

John and Jackie. They fit together like a dream. His wit, her class, his charisma, her fortitude—it just worked. She was exactly the kind of bright, intelligent, beautiful woman of character that the Kennedys needed to balance their rough-and-tumble, politician-packed family. So on September 12th, 1953, John and Jackie were married, in a wedding much larger than she would have preferred, and then they were off to Mexico for their honeymoon.

Obviously, John had big dreams, and Jackie was just the girl you’d want to stand beside you as you shot for the stars. Between supporting her husband and becoming a mother to Caroline and John John, she was the model ‘campaign wife’, the title of the weekly article she published while on bedrest, pregnant with her second when John campaigned cross-country throughout 1960. Their joint efforts won the election later that same year in a very close race against VP Richard Nixon, and at 31, Jackie became America’s first lady.

Under Jackie, a refined but exuberant energy entered the White House. When the Kennedys moved in, she immediately began renovations, not to reflect her own tastes but to honor and preserve the history of the presidential house. She found pieces of furniture belonging to previous presidents and brought them back in to be restored. She invited artists, musicians, scientists, and other cultural figures to visit and perform. And she made it a home for her children to grow up in. Under Jackie Kennedy, the White House flourished with a hopeful spirit, palpable to any who entered its doors.

And her efforts didn’t live at home. She frequently traveled abroad alongside John. Her ability to communicate in Spanish, French, and Italian was completely charming and inclusive to the people who met her. The love of Jackie Kennedy quickly extended beyond the borders of America to the countries of the world.
It was that love that would cause consolation and commiseration to pour over her when in November of 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, only shortly after Jackie had lost her third son, Patrick, to illness just two days after his birth. Not many of us can imagine the depths of grief Jackie must have felt during this period of her life. Nevertheless, in the weeks and months that followed, she insisted on planning John’s funeral and establishing a memorial to his legacy: the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. From then on, her focus lay on raising her children. She supported herself as an editor and publisher for the remainder of her life, and though she remarried, when she passed in 1994 of cancer, she was laid to rest beside her beloved John in Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C.

Though she was gorgeous, educated, stylish, and poised, it wasn’t these qualities, but her dedication and courage, that set Jackie apart. She made great efforts to be the best mother, wife, and first lady she could be, and set a powerful example in each category. Her goal in life, as stated in her high school yearbook, was to be ‘more than a housewife’ and she certainly achieved it. She extended care and thoughtfulness to an entire nation, even the world, and in doing so, she was established as a prominent figure in history. She is well-remembered and remains a beloved part of our American story.

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