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On the Bookshelf: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations On Life with John F. Kennedy

alec vanderboom

I've really enjoyed listening to this recently released oral history on Jacqueline Kennedy. Four months after her husband's assassination, Mrs. Kennedy sat down with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr had had a series of seven "conversations" about her husband's presidency. These conversations were quite candid, because she knew they were not going to be made public for at least 50 years. (This was also basically the only time she allowed herself to be interviewed about her life as First Lady.)

There are all kinds of unexpected gems which put a more human face on the imposing political figures of the day. Here is one I enjoyed about Mrs. Kennedy's meeting with Khrushchev. After running out of conversation topics with Mr. Khrushchev, she mentions that one of the famous Russian "space dogs" had puppies...

"I knew all the names of those dogs- Strelka and Belk and Laika. So I said, "I see where-I see one of your space dogs just had puppies. Why don't you send me one?" And he just sort of laughed...

We were back in Washington about tow months later, and two absolutely sweating Russians come staggering into the Oval Room with the ambassador carrying this poor terrified puppy who'd obviously never been out of a laboratory, with needles in every vein. And Jack said to me--I had forgotten to tell him that- he said, "How did this dog get here?" And I said "Well, I'm afraid that I asked Khrushchev for it in Vienna. I was just running out of things to say."

(pg. 210)