What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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9780399530807: What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
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She was a woman of confidence, focus, and passion, and it made her one of the world's greatest sources of inspiration and influence. She drew on a remarkable wealth of self-knowledge and a sense of purpose to cope with extraordinary public demands and overwhelming private needs. How can anyone emulate Jackie?

What Jackie Taught Us offers Jackie's own personal lessons about how best to live one's life with poise, grace, and zest, including wisdom about image and style, courage and vision, men, marriage, motherhood, and motivation, and how best to apply those lessons to everyday life. With the shining example of this American icon, we can illuminate who we are, what we want—and what we truly need from ourselves and each other.

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About the Author:

Tina Santi Flaherty, a lifelong admirer of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was the first woman elected a vice president at three of America's largest companies: Colgate-Palmolive, GTE, and Grey Advertising. Described by Business Week as one of America's top corporate women, she is a much sought-after motivational speaker and the author of Talk Your Way to the Top and The Savvy Woman's Success Bible. She coaches politicians, educators, and Fortune 500 executives in the art of communicating with creativity.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014 by Tina Santi Flaherty

Prologue

Some may believe that there is such a thing as “the Kennedy Curse.” Violent deaths, personal destruction, and broken dreams have haunted the fabled family over the decades and have contributed to this belief. Whether this scourge actually exists is open to interpretation. There is no doubt, however, that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis could rightfully be called “the Kennedy Blessing.” indeed, America was blessed in a way it had never been before her tenure as First Lady. in sharing with us her love and protection of all things beautiful, she changed the way America was perceived at home and abroad. For more than four decades, Jackie—as we still fondly call her—captured our imaginations as no other woman has or probably ever will again in our time. Her death in 1994 seemed premature, and it still doesn’t seem fair that she’s gone. Twenty years later, her radiant smile and elegant spirit continue to live on and will forever be a part of American history.

Jackie had everything people admired and wanted for themselves—beauty, intelligence, adorable children, a life full of excitement and glamour, and, yes, a handsome husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We cannot think of Jackie without remembering Jack. Together they symbolized a poignant time in our nation’s history, when its innocence and optimism promised that anything was possible. They gave us hope and made us feel that each of us would be the best we could be.

The extraordinary life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was full of magic, both black and white. The most terrible tragedy that could ever be imagined happened to her. Her husband, the most powerful man in the free world, was murdered before her very eyes. She handled his death with a majesty that we will never forget. Our hearts ached as we tearfully reached out to her, young Caroline, and the little boy we called John-John. We loved Jackie when Jack was alive and continued to love her after he was gone. Admittedly, many of her admirers were temporarily thrown off base by her subsequent marriage to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. After Onassis died, we resumed our unflagging adoration when she emerged as America’s most famous working woman. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was by no means a perfect person, but in our minds and memories, she was as close to perfection as few people ever will be.

Although I didn’t know Jackie personally, I happened to live in the same building in New York City. in 1989, my former husband and I purchased an apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue, the building to which Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis moved with her two children in 1964, after she left Washington, DC. With its magnificent views of Central Park and its large gracious apartments, 1040 Fifth was designed by the architectural genius Rosario Candela, who created some of New York City’s most prestigious buildings, including the grand art deco duplex at 740 Park Avenue where Jackie lived as a child. Located on the Upper east Side of Manhattan, near the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1040 Fifth Avenue is still special because to most people it’s where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis lived for the final thirty years of her life and it was there that she died in 1994 at the age of sixty-four.

As a neighbor, I observed Jackie from a faraway closeness— never wanting to encroach on her privacy. Once, her son, John, who was thirty-two years old at the time, approached me in the lobby as I was returning home from a chilly winter walk in Central Park with Liam, my yellow Labrador. “What’s it like to have a dog in a New York City apartment?” he asked, with an earnest, friendly smile on his handsome face. “It’s just fine,” I answered. “Dogs just want to be wherever you are.” It was an endearing encounter. I assumed he asked the question because he was thinking of getting a dog, which he subsequently did— an enormous German Shepherd named Sam, which he rescued from the pound.

 

Jackie’s Legacy

As a woman who filled many roles in her life, Jackie’s enduring legacy lies in the choices she made. She handled happiness and heartache, incredible fame and wealth, and public demands and private needs with a remarkable discipline derived from a tremendous well of self-knowledge and acceptance. Indeed, Jackie taught the world, both women and men alike, many valuable lessons for which we may be forever grateful.

This book explores the unique path that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took, which led to her overwhelming success, and examines those personal characteristics and traits that made it possible. Her life shows us that success is determined less by an inborn capacity than by focus, strategy, and passion. More important for us, Jackie laid out a road map for achievement.

While we need not aspire to the same heights she reached to learn from her extraordinary accomplishments, we can all enlarge and enrich our own personal universe by following her example in our own way.

 

Veiling Truth in Mystery

An Introduction

Liz Smith is a columnist and the author

of Natural Blonde.

 

 

 

 

 

In my sixty-odd-year career of writing about celebrities and the prominent, I’ve realized I’ve had the chance to observe the lives of five of the most famous and vital women of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries:

Marilyn Monroe, more famous now than when she died dramatically in 1962. Elizabeth Taylor, movie star of stars, and my friend, who left us in 2011. The still provocative pop queen deluxe Madonna, constantly pronounced “finished,” who made more money last year than her younger competitors. Princess Diana, declared the VIP most people would like to bring back to life after her tragic early death in 1997. And Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis—the most mysterious and inexplicable of them all—gone of illness in 1994.

Virgil wrote about “veiling truth in mystery,” and Jackie’s legacy has been just that.

This commemorative edition of What Jackie Taught Us, published on the twentieth anniversary of Jackie’s death, includes not only the insights from her life about how to live with poise, grace, and zest as Tina Flaherty articulated them but also the memories of her by a number of astute observers. But this book won’t pretend to solve the variousness, the depth of unusual ideas, theories, and contradictions about Jackie.

For she alone of the five maintained an almost impenetrable air of reticence and spiritual-psychic secrets. One way or another, the other four were flamboyant exhibitionists. But Jackie gave away only what she wanted people to know and think, and she left us always wanting more.

The world press almost went crazy because—though millions read the rumors that she was indifferent to infidelities, or promiscuous herself, and all the rest of her contradictions during her thousand days as First Lady—she gave up almost nothing. Her voice, downy and pillow soft, her televised tour of the White House with Charles Collingwood, her heroic behavior at the Dallas assassination, a final move to New York City to escape the public, the downhill phase of her marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and her private life as a book editor raising two first-rate children—Jackie never gave anything away.

If she did say something in a rare unintended interview—as with Teddy White and to William Manchester after JFK’s death—she soon relented and denied it. Or sued to keep it quiet. Even the indefatigable Barbara Walters, who won the elusive Katharine Hepburn, never got to ask Jackie what kind of a tree she’d like to have been.

Jackie didn’t exactly despise her fame; she just didn’t want to cooperate with it unless on her own terms. She evidently knew who she was, and she didn’t have to massage her ego or maintain and extend curiosity about herself. So she never did.

Thus the plethora of rumors continued: she spent a fortune on lingerie; she accepted a million to stay married to Jack; she had an affair with her brother-in-law; she told the famous writer Philip Roth when he dared kiss her cheek, “Oh, what did you have to do that for?” and dismissed him; she said or didn’t say to the Metropolitan Museum, “I don’t give a shit about the Temple of Dendur.”

She did protect her privacy to a large extent. Even the persistent Ron Gallela, deemed the “the godfather of U.S. paparazzi culture” by Time magazine, finally—and legally— had to keep his distance. (He says now she should have paid him for the iconic hair-blowing shot of her walking away looking mysterious!)

I, for one, kept my distance and declared her son and daughter off limits. I was told she read my columns with relish, and Lyndon Johnson aide Horace Busby told me she adored gossip and mostly looked on life as a kind of French film farce. She told our mutual pal Joe Armstrong that “the Kennedys will never forgive Liz Smith for writing about Jack and Judith Campbell Exner.” But she seemed not to include herself in their number.

In time, I was introduced to her at book parties after she became an editor. I would see her often at get-togethers, social and charitable. I always stayed away from her at these gatherings, but I got the impression that she would seek me out—ask in a friendly complimentary manner who did my hair or talk about our mutual avidity for books on Austrian and middle European history or her charitable interests, like saving grand Central Terminal. She even sent me nice hand-written notes when I mentioned her authors and books.

On the night I was given the Municipal Art Society Medal of Honor, I wondered if, as she hung the award around my neck, she might want to wring my neck instead. But she simply said, “Congratulations, Liz!” and moved on. She was the eternal sphinx.

Jackie is the star about whom I feel it has become almost pointless even to speculate. Usually humorous unless crossed, I am told she could turn as cold as ice and people were hard- pressed to know what they had done. According to her Secret Service man, Clint Hill, she was an angel, and he couldn’t do enough to please her. According to the recent biography These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack and Jackie by Chris Andersen, she was miserable at Jack’s infidelities but adjusted in the White House until tragedy struck. In Nemesis, Peter Evans’s book about Onassis, he reports that Jackie went to his funeral with a curious half-smile on her face, causing his daughter, Christina, to leap out of the car she was sharing with her father’s enigmatic widow. Jackie didn’t explain.

She never spoke for herself. She didn’t give interviews. The press and public had to do all the work. That is something like mining for gold—forever—without hitting pay dirt. But still, she seems rich in spirit and personality beyond our wildest dreams. It is only in dreams that she really exists and in our imaginations. She didn’t allow much of anything more.

At the end, her best personal revelation about her illness was only this: “Why did I bother to do all those push-ups and exercise before non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma!” She died as she had lived, privately, with family, friends, and her long-time companion, Maurice Tempelsman, by her side. Of her death, her son, John, said that she died “in her own way, on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that.”

The most attractive, exasperating, intelligent, frustrating historical icon ever. She was the First Lady to end all First Ladies for never giving herself away.

—Liz Smith

 

 

Jackie Revisited

It is twice as hard to crush a half-truth as a whole lie.

—Unknown

 

 

Many different perceptions exist about the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. One is that Jackie was merely a beautiful woman whose life was consumed with shopping and traveling to glamorous places. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As with many attractive women whose intelligence and accomplishments are often hidden behind their glamour and style, Jackie’s keen intellect was often obscured by her jet-setting image and her big, dark sunglasses. In 1962, a New York Times article grudgingly acknowledged Jackie’s intelligence with this comment: “It is now all right for a woman to be a bit brainy or cultured as long as she tempers her intelligence with a ‘t’rific’ girlish rhetoric.”

As a young woman, Jackie learned to conceal her intellect, perhaps believing her mother’s advice that men don’t like brainy women. When she met her husband-to-be, Jack Kennedy, she found that wasn’t necessarily true.

What Jackie achieved in her thousand days in the White House was monumental in scope. Through her style, her grace, and her impassioned support of the arts as well as her key role in historic preservation, she helped change the way America was perceived by the rest of the world.

Although Jackie was destined to be a major player on the world stage, she began her life in a very ordinary setting, a small hospital on the eastern shore of Long Island.

Early Years

From the beginning, it appeared that Jackie somehow wanted to do things her way, even choosing the date of her birth. Due to arrive in mid-June, she was born six weeks later, on July 28, 1929, at the local hospital in the fashionable resort village of Southampton, about two hours from New York City. She was the first child of Janet Norton Lee and John “Jack” Vernou Bouvier III. Three months after her birth, the stock market crash of October 1929 occurred, turning the world upside down.

While only marginally affected by the depression, Jackie’s family soon suffered significant financial setbacks due to Jack Bouvier’s careless investments and indiscriminate spending habits, creating a major change in their lifestyle. Jackie and her sister, Lee, born four years later, were left with a lifelong feeling of insecurity and a deep fear of poverty despite their relatively comfortable existence.

Although Jackie was born into a privileged lifestyle, the Bouviers were not descended from French nobility, as her grandfather stubbornly claimed. Instead, their ancestors, who originated in southern France, had been tailors, farmers, and even domestic servants. The name Bouvier, while suggesting aristocratic lineage, actually means “cowherd.” Michel Bouvier, the family’s first immigrant to America, left France in 1815 after serving in Napoleon’s defeated army and settled in Philadelphia. Starting as a handyman, he later became a cabinet-maker and eventually a successful land speculator. His children and grandchildren prospered over the years, marrying into some of society’s leading families, including the Ewings, Sergeants, and Drexels.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jackie was more Irish than French, an important point to note, given the later emphasis on her French ancestry. Her mother, Janet Lee, was 100 percent Irish. The Lee family had arrived in America in 1852 from County Cork, Ireland, at the time of the potato famine. Janet’s maternal grandmother, Margaret Merritt, who cooked and cleaned for the Lee family, spoke with a thick Irish brogue, much to her granddaughter’s embarrassment.

Although Jackie’s father, John Vernou...

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