The most significant advancement in American technology was the television. Once a commodity that few Americans with money possessed in the late 1940's, it was now in the homes of all Americans by the era of the 1960's. It was this medium that would blast across the screen the the youthful, handsome, rich, John F. Kennedy with his young beautiful wife Jackie and their two vivacious children. Despite the Kennedy wealth, there was something radiated in the Kennedys that appeared rather everyday and common.
When Jack took office, his father Joseph P. Sr. insisted that Jack's younger brother Robert, should be the attorney general. It was unprecedented nepotism, and Jack knew it. Jack was not eager to fight his old man about it either. Robert as attorney general to Jack Kennedy worked for both men rather well. Robert ended up being Jack's most closest and most trusted of advisors. It was in a time when America was in need of an efficient attorney general. America was reaching its peak in the Civil Rights Movement as well
as in the issues of Communism with countries such as Cuba and Russia.
On inaugaration day, every extended family from the Fitzgeralds on matriarch Rose Kennedy's side to both sides of Jackie's maternal relations, the Bouviers and the Lees, to all of the families of Jack's younger brothers and sisters--the Lawfords, the Shrivers, the Smiths,
baby brother Ted Kennedy's new Family, Robert's growing family with Ethel came to DC to see the once young sickly Jack Kennedy take his oath of office into the highest position of the land.
It was a day of great rejoicing for the Kennedy clan as Joseph P. Kennedy remarked to Rose "It's a long way from East Boston...isn't it?".
It was not until Joseph P. had blown open the doors as the first Irish Catholic ever to be ambassador to Great Britain. Did things begin to change for the Kennedy family and all Irish in America particularly after World War II. When Jack ran for the Presidency, America's prejudice against Catholics became apparent in cartoons and questions fired by the press as to whether his decided policies would be affected by decisions of the Pope in the Vatican in Rome. However Jack, with the help of father and family overcame these prejudices,
preconceptions and worries to become President.
The Kennedy appeal became feverpitch during the years that Jack and his familiy resided in the White House. Jack was raised by his father well and his reading and his father's training had made him a very saavy politician. Kennedy was an image minded man much like his father and grandparents PJ & Mary Augusta.
John F. Kennedy, much like his predecessor Teddy Roosevelt was eager to be a man's man. Like Teddy, he was a sickly young child. As a result he often could not play sports as furiously as his brother--leading him to pursue women avidly as
one mark of his manhood. Jack was a huge fan of the movies and of movie stars like Cary Grant who were the aristocratic gentleman--those like Cecil Melbourne or Sir Walter Scott's knights he had read growing up. But he was an avid fan of John Wayne--
everyone's favorite tough guy--John Wayne who was never killed and always handled a crisis very well. These men, Jack idealized and he used them as his model as to how he controlled his image while he was in the White House.
Kennedy was the first President to ever broadcast press conferences on a regular basis on television. By doing this he enhanced him intimacy with the public, unlike Roosevelt's Fireside Chats in the Depression thirties, where Americans gathered to hear the President give warm reassurances during a time of hardship, Kennedy fed into the idealized image of the confident President. Kennedy was also extremely telegenic and had exceptional charisma with people. It came out when he campaigned endless hours with the rest of his family. Combined with a beautiful wife and two kids. It made the perfect American family.
At this time, Life Magazine had already been using the white middle class family as a heightened universalized image of the American way of life. Throughout the 1940's and 50's American ideology of the family is where the father worked, the mother managed the domestic household and the children played indoors/outdoors and then watched the television.
The Kennedy family played into this image. Jack was the personification of cool control. His careful manipulation of the media to come into his home particularly when an American crisis was at the forefront helped to solidify his image of manhood. Jack's youth, appeal to public service,and telegenic qualities, made him an American folk hero.
His wife Jackie, daughter of high society, was the beautiful wife who was an impeccable dresser. Her televised tour of the White House after she had had manned a complete remodeling and redecorating of it, played into her role as the domestic wife. And her overprotective nature with their young kids solidified her image as a devoted domestic mother.
Jackie's clothes set new trends across the country for women, including the famous pillbox cap and A-line dresses. In 1961, in a cartoon popular to adults and children, the Flinstones, made comment to Jackie's style. Consumerized housewives Wilma Flinstone and Betty Rubble are on a wild shopping spreeing using their credit cards when they pass a mannequin. "There!" shouts Wilma,
pointing to a pillbox hat and beige suit on the dummy, 'it's the Jackie Kennelrock look!' On the sitcom show about an All-American suburban couple the Dick Van Dyke show, Mary Tyler Moore, whose dark hair and eyes was reminiscent of Jackie, wore her hair in a bouffant flip with curls, wore A-Line sleeveless dresses, capri pants, and bulky turtleneck sweaters, much like the First Lady.
In 1962, when asked which woman she would like to be Miss America said " To be more like Jackie".
The children complimented the image of the All-American family. Though Jackie detested their photographs to be taken while in play. Jack knew exactly that this was what America wanted to see. And when Jackie was away, Jack would often have many snapshots of Caroline and John-John (nicknamed by the press) playing under his desk, in their playrooms, in the Rose Garden, in their schoolhouses, throwing parties, Caroline riding her pony, or John-John running toward the helicopters and planes which so often captivated him.
These images were not only charming in their simplicity but glamor but to most Americans a representation of the life they were already leading. With the validation of their President doing it, it became the way to live.
Many historians remember Jack as an above average President. It is the images of Camelot, most of them say, that made him larger than life, and made his death so much more tragic. He stood before America with his administration entitled the New Frontier which called for America's advancement on an international scale, the fight for democracy, and the forgers of better and great lives. His speech was forever immortalized in his words toward the end of his inaugaral speech:
"And so my fellow Americans: ask not--
what your country can do for you--
but what you can do for your country"
It was with this hope that America believed Kennedy would take them through the decade. But it was not to be. His life was ended by by sniper's bullet on November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. His death is built into the American psyche as John F. Kennedy's 1,000 days in the White House. His funeral arranged by his wife was as gallant as if he was a fallen immortalized hero. Jackie continued the idea of the immortal hero through her lighting of the eternal flame over his grave in Arlington Cemetery.
Jackie had an understanding of her husband and his ideals.Upon his death in her sole interview before leaving the White House, said her husband had always looked at history with an idealized view. "History was full of heroes" she said. Explaining the eternal flame, myth preserved the recurring will to struggle toward the ideal and that was the meaning of her husband's life. In this same interview, Jacqueline invoked the name of Camelot. Her husband's favorite broadway play. For there would be "great Presidents again" but never "another Camelot".