The Kennedy family continues to fascinate America, long after the death of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy.
For the first time, people are getting the chance to hear Jacqueline Kennedy describe -- in her own words -- what life was like for her in the White House.
In 1964, just four months after her husband's assassination, she recorded a series of interviews with friend and longtime Kennedy aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
The tapes were kept under seal by the Kennedy Library until this month. Audio and transcripts of the interviews are being released in book form today in "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy," with a personal foreword by Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, and annotations by historian Michael Beschloss.
The book includes the original audio tapes from these historic interviews, disclosing intimate moments of the Kennedy family at a time when fascination with them -- and with Jacqueline Kennedy, in particular -- was high.
It gives insight into some of the tensest moments in the nation's history. Mrs. Kennedy, in her distinctive voice, reveals how her husband reacted to the failed invasion at Cuba's Bay of Pigs.
"He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one -- just put his head in his hands and sort of wept," she said. "It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much."
She also reveals her frank feelings about the newsmakers of the day, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles de Gaulle.
Read an excerpt from "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy" below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library
In 1964, as part of an oral history project on the life and career of John F. Kennedy, my mother sat down with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., to share her memories and insights. Recorded less than four months after the death of her husband, they represent a gift to history and a labor of love on her part. In order to treat them with the appropriate respect, my children and I took very seriously the decision to publish them now, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of my father's presidency. The moment seems right—enough time has passed so that they can be appreciated for their unique insight, yet the Kennedy presidency is still within living memory for many who will find her observations illuminating. I hope too that younger generations who are just learning about the 1960s will find these reminiscences a useful introduction to how history is made, and will be inspired to give back to this country that has given us all so much.
When I was growing up, my mother spent much of her time meeting behind closed doors with members of my father's administration, planning his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, making sure that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would reflect his commitment to our country's cultural heritage, executing his wishes for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the Institute of Politics, and making countless decisions on the disposition of my father's official papers, personal effects, mementos, and memorabilia. She was determined that the Kennedy Library would be a living memorial, a place where students would be inspired to pursue careers in public service, where scholars would have access to the historical record, and where families could learn about the ideals that animated my father's career and his vision for America. These meetings were somewhat mysterious, but my brother and I had a sense that nothing was more important than the "oral history" that we heard about from time to time.
My parents shared a love of history. To them, the past was not an academic concern, but a gathering of the most fascinating people you could ever hope to meet. My father's interests were political—I still have his books on the Civil War and English parliamentary history, as well as his annotated copy of The Federalist Papers. My mother thought there weren't enough women in American history to make it as interesting as reading novels and diaries from the courts of Europe. She read War and Peace during the Wisconsin primary, and maintained that reading the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon about life at Versailles was the most valuable preparation she received for life in the White House.