Over the years, I have received multiple requests to publish my mother's memos and correspondence. At times, it has been difficult to balance her wish for privacy against her public role and pay proper respect to both. Although I agonize over each request, I know that my mother trusted my judgment and felt that I understood her outlook on life. As the years pass, it has become less painful to share her with the world, and in fact, it is a privilege. As her child, it has sometimes been hard for me to reconcile that most people can identify my mother instantly, but they really don't know her at all. They may have a sense of her style and her dignified persona, but they don't always appreciate her intellectual curiosity, her sense of the ridiculous, her sense of adventure, or her unerring sense of what was right. Over time, I have tried to draw the line between her public and private life much as I think she did—I try to accommodate requests that pertain to my father's career, life in the White House, historic events and historic preservation, while denying permission for publication of her writings as a private citizen—whether as a young woman or a working editor.
These conversations are not in the same category as her personal writings, because they were recorded with the intention that they would be made accessible one day. So it was not a question of whether to publish but a question of when, and the decision was up to me. My experience with other requests informed my decision that the time was right.
In reaching this conclusion, I found it helpful to remember the context in which the interviews were conducted, and the timing of when they occurred. The goal was to create a record of my father's life and career from the memories of those who knew and worked with him. Accordingly, the questions follow a loosely chronological sequence beginning with my father's early political battles in Massachusetts, his 1956 fight for the vice-presidential nomination, the 1960 campaign, the transition to the presidency, the Inauguration, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, official and family life in the White House, and plans for the 1964 campaign and a second term. Along the way, there are discussions that reveal much about the central characters and events of the time in both domestic politics and international affairs.
The decision was complicated by my conviction that if my mother had reviewed the transcripts, I have no doubt she would have made revisions. She was a young widow in the extreme stages of grief. The interviews were conducted only four months after she had lost her husband, her home, and her sense of purpose. She had two young children to raise alone. It isn't surprising that there are some statements she would later have considered too personal, and others too harsh. There are things I am sure she would have added, and her views certainly evolved over time. I struggled with the question of whether to delete remarks that might be taken out of context. I was aware that my intentions might be misinterpreted, even if the edited version was a more "accurate" reflection of how she really felt. After much deliberation, I decided to maintain the integrity of the audio interviews as a primary source while editing the text slightly for readability, not content, as has been done with other presidential transcripts and oral history interviews.