JACKIE KENNEDY ONASSIS WAS AN ICON
Fifty years ago, a woman became a widow in front of the whole world, and her strength and courage in adversity have been admired ever since. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was not a political icon, or a fashion icon; she was all kind of icons. And she still is. On November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas, Texas; Jackie was the embodiment of dignity. She wore her blood-stained pink suit all day so that the world could see “what they did to him.” There is also this devastating image of Mrs. Kennedy crawling out of her seat in the Lincoln to get a piece of her husband’s blown-out brain. These are painful times to remember even for us who weren’t born back then.
But the fascination for the Kennedys in general, and Jackie in particular predated the mournful events of Dallas. The Kennedys were royalty in a country that never -or only briefly, back when it was 13 colonies- had a sovereign. When a charming, handsome, charismatic young man was , liberal elected President of the United States, America and the world would look at him full of hope. Those were the best of times. This was Camelot. There were the sumptuous state dinners and the Hyannis Port vacations. Jack was dashing Jackie had regal poise; and together - I insist: together- they brought America into a new era and forged the path towards equality between all the nation’s children. Kennedy was progressive and if his popularity never faltered in the liberal North-East; in the conservative South Jackie was his wild card.
Jackie was beautiful in that aristocratic way, she was the loving caring and protective mother of Caroline and John-John, and even though it was no secret her husband strayed, she stood by his side always. It doesn’t mean, she wasn’t independent. Because she was, she was fiercely independent and outspoken. Only more discreet.
After the President's death, Jackie raised her children not exactly alone, the Kennedy Clan takes care of his own. After Bobby's death in 1968, she married Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis and would be known as Jackie O. until his death in 1975. Jackie then launched a career as a book editor. She was a very smart, well-read woman who studied journalism and was a good photographer.
Until her death from cancer at a young age (64) in May 1994, Jacqueline Kennedy was celebrated as one of the most influential women. She was not only a live icon, she was the subject of many of Andy Warhol's art pieces. And ever since the 1960's women have admired her sense of style. When I was in New York this Summer, I walked by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park; and I drove by Hyannis Port, Massachussets. America is still full of fond memories and nostalgia for the Camelot royalty.
Ted Kennedy described her best in his eulogy:”She was a blessing to us and to the nation-and a lesson to the world on how to do things right, how to be a mother, how to appreciate history, how to be courageous.
No one else looked like her, spoke like her, wrote like her, or was so original in the way she did things. No one we knew ever had a better sense of self.””She made a rare and noble contribution to the American spirit. But for us, most of all she was a magnificent wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend.
She graced our history. And for those of us who knew and loved her—she graced our lives.”