Jackie Kennedy: Her Life, Image and Legacy

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Duration 00:53:44

University of Virginia

Barbara A. Perry, Ph.D., is the Gerald L. Baliles Professor and Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, where she co-directs the Presidential Oral History Program. Professor Perry has participated in or led more than 130 interviews for the George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects; interviewed President Bill Clinton for his spoken history; directed the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project; and co-directs the Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton Oral History Projects. Dr. Perry is a member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Advisory Committee, and the White House Historical Association Board, which was founded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. She has authored or edited seventeen books on presidents, First Ladies, the Supreme Court, and the Kennedy family, including Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier.



In a mere thousand days, Jacqueline Kennedy created an entrancing public persona that has lasted six decades. The product of a New York high-society family, Jacqueline Bouvier was a young adolescent when her mother divorced her womanizing father. After undergraduate studies at Vassar, the Sorbonne, and George Washington University, she became a photojournalist and encountered the dashing congressman, John F. Kennedy, at a Washington dinner party. Married to JFK in 1953, Jackie Kennedy, the mother of two young children by 1961, accepted the role of First Lady at age 31. This lecture explores her sparkling contributions to Camelot and how she survived its horrific end, eventually marrying Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and pursuing a successful career as a New York book editor.


Recommended Reading:

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story, by Barbara Learning

Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House, by Sally Bedell Smith

Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier, by Barbara A. Perry


Discussion Questions:

1. How did Jacqueline Bouvier’s education and young adulthood prepare her to be First Lady?

2. How did she contribute to her husband’s presidency in the midst of the Cold War?

3. Should we label First Ladies’ influence “soft power?”

4. What is Mrs. Kennedy’s historic role in preserving her husband’s legacy?

5. How should we view her post-First Ladyship, marriage to Onassis, and successful career in book editing in the sweep of her biography?

6. Why does she maintain such fascination for Americans and her admirers abroad almost three decades after her death?




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