Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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I think my biggest achievement is that, after going through a rather difficult time, I consider myself comparatively sane.

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (28 July 192919 May 1994) was the wife of the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. She was later married to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis from 1968 until his death in 1975. In later years she had a successful career as a book editor, and is remembered for her style and elegance.

Quotes[edit]

I should have guessed that it would be too much to ask to grow old with and see our children grow up together. So now, he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.
Minimum information given with maximum politeness.
We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them.
One man can make a difference and every man should try.
The deep desire to inspire people, to take an active part in the life of the country … attracts our best people to political life … We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them. We owe that to our country.
  • I've always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person — starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them — and I've always thought that every minute away from them would be hell — so looking at it that [way] I guess I'm not in love with you.
    • Letter breaking up with a boyfriend in 1947, as quoted in Jacqueline Kennedy's Old Love Letters Will School You in the Art of Breaking Up" by Laura Beck, in Cosmopolitan (2 September 2015)]
  • A newspaper reported I spend $30,000 a year buying Paris clothes and that women hate me for it. I couldn’t spend that much unless I wore sable underwear.
    • The New York Times (15 September 1960)
  • I want to be there when he dies.
    • When told she couldn't access President Kennedy's hospital room (22 November 1963); quoted in The Death of a President (1967) by William Manchester
  • He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights... it had to be some silly little Communist.
    • To her mother, Janet Auchincloss (22 November 1963); quoted in The Death of a President (1967) by William Manchester
  • Dear God, please take care of your servant John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
    • Inscription for cards at her husband’s funeral (25 November 1963)
  • I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of messages, nearly eight hundred thousand in all, which my children and I have received over the past few weeks. The knowledge of the affection in which my husband was held by all of you has sustained me and the warmth of these tributes is something I shall never forget. Whenever I can bear to, I read them. All his bright light’s gone from the world. All of you who have written to me know how much we all loved him and that he returned that love in full measure.
  • I loathe the French. There's not one French person I can think of except—maybe two very simple people. Maybe Boudin, who's so un-French. You know, they're really not very nice. They're all for themselves.
    • In her 1964 interview with Arthur Schlesinger, quoted in Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (2011).
  • Now, I think that I should have known that he was magic all along. I did know it — but I should have guessed that it would be too much to ask to grow old with and see our children grow up together. So now, he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.
    • Quoted from article written by Jacqueline Kennedy for Look Magazine (17 November 1964) JFK memorial issue.
  • One man can make a difference and every man should try.
    • Written on a card for an exhibit which travelled around the US when the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston was first opening (1979), quoted in Respectfully Quoted : A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) edited by Suzy Platt
  • A camel makes an elephant feel like a jet plane.
    • On a 1962 visit to India quoted in A Hero for Our Time (1983) by Ralph G Martin
  • We know you understand that even though people may be well known they still hold in their hearts the emotions of a simple person for the moments that are the most important of those we know on earth — birth, marriage, death. We wish our wedding to be a private moment in the little chapel among the cypresses of Skorpios.
    • Press Statement issued the day before her marriage to Aristotle Onassis, NY Times (20 October 1968)
  • You were so kind to us yesterday. Never have I seen such magnanimity and such tenderness.
    Can you imagine the gift you gave me? To return to the White House privately with my little ones while they are still young enough to rediscover their childhood — with you both as guides — and with your daughters, such extraordinary young women.
    What a tribute to have brought them up like that in the limelight. I pray I can do half the same with my Caroline. It was good to see her exposed to their example, and John to their charm!
    You spoiled us beyond belief . . . I have never seen the White House look so perfect. There is no hidden corner of it that is not beautiful now.
  • Whenever I was upset by something in the papers, [Jack] always told me to be more tolerant, like a horse flicking away flies in the summer.
    • Quoted in A Hero for Our Time (1983) by Ralph G Martin
  • Minimum information given with maximum politeness.
    • Instructions to press secretary Pamela Turnure; Quoted in A Hero for Our Time (1983) by Ralph G Martin; sometimes rendered : "I want minimum information given with maximum politeness."
  • It looks like it’s been furnished by discount stores.
    • On the White House; Quoted in A Hero for Our Time (1983) by Ralph G Martin
  • The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse.
    • Advice to her secretary; quoted inThe Kennedys (1984) by Peter Collier and David Horowitz
  • You are about to have your first experience with a Greek lunch. I will kill you if you pretend to like it.
    • Welcoming decorator Billy Baldwin to the island of Skorpios; quoted in Ari (1986) by Peter Evans
  • It was a very spasmodic courtship, conducted mainly at long distance with a great clanking of coins in dozens of phone booths.
    • On her romance with John F. Kennedy quoted inThe Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (1987) by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
  • What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren’t supposed to work if they had families. What were they to do when the children were grown — watch raindrops coming down the windowpane?
    • Quoted in The Last Word (1992) edited by Carolyn Warner
  • One of the things I like about publishing is that you don't promote the editor — you promote the book and the author.
    • Interview with Publishers Weekly (19 April 1993)
  • To think that I very nearly didn’t go... What if I’d been here — out riding in Virginia or somewhere — Thank God I went with him.
    • Quoted in The Unknown Wisdom of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1994) edited by Bill Adler
  • The children have been a wonderful gift to me, and I’m thankful to have once again seen our world through their eyes. They restore my faith in the family’s future.
    • The Unknown Wisdom of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1994) edited by Bill Adler
  • One must not let oneself be overwhelmed by sadness.
    • Quoted in The Unknown Wisdom of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1994) edited by Bill Adler
  • The trouble with me is that I’m an outsider. And that’s a very hard thing to be in American life.
    • Quoted in The Unknown Wisdom of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1994) edited by Bill Adler
  • The river of sludge will go on and on. It isn’t about me.
    • On tabloid stories, as quoted in Newsweek (30 August 1994)
  • Aristotle Onassis rescued me at a moment when my life was engulfed with shadows. He brought me into a world where one could find both happiness and love. We lived through many beautiful experiences together which cannot be forgotten, and for which I will be eternally grateful.
    • Statement at the funeral of Aristotle Onassis, as quoted in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis : A Life (2000) by Donald Spoto.
  • I think my biggest achievement is that, after going through a rather difficult time, I consider myself comparatively sane.
    • Response to Stephen Spender, on being asked what she considered her proudest accomplishment, as quoted in The Eloquent Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis : A Portrait in Her Own Words (2004) by Bill Adler, p. 5, and p. 232
  • The deep desire to inspire people, to take an active part in the life of the country … attracts our best people to political life … We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them. We owe that to our country.
    • As quoted in The Eloquent Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis : A Portrait in Her Own Words (2004) by Bill Adler, p. 174
  • You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up. The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones. While big men know the need for self-control and restraint, little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride.
    • Letter to Nikita Khrushchev after JFK assassination, as quoted in One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War (2009) by Michael Dobbs.
  • No one in the world could have ever been like you were yesterday -- except maybe Bobby -- We are going home now -- Your phone was busy.
  • You know that anything -- Stas will take little Bobby to Africa -- I'll take them around the world + to the moon + back -- anything to help you + them now and always.
  • We have known so much & shared & lost so much together—Even if it isn’t the way you wish now—I hope that bond of love and pain will never be cut.

The "Camelot" interview (29 November 1963)[edit]

The sun was so strong in our faces. I couldn't put on sunglasses... Then we saw this tunnel ahead, I thought it would be cool in the tunnel...
They were gunning the motorcycles. There were these little backfires. There was one noise like that. I thought it was a backfire...
The song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot... "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."
One week after the assasination of her husband Mrs. Kennedy summoned Theodore H. White to Hyannisport for an interview. Some of the statements she made appeared in that week's edition of LIFE magazine (6 December 1963), and more of it appeared many years later in his memoir In Search of History: A Personal Adventure (1978). In 1969 White donated his notes of the interview to the Kennedy Library, to be made fully public only after Mrs. Kennedy's death. They were released on 26 May 1995.
  • There'd been the biggest motorcade from the airport. Hot. Wild. Like Mexico and Vienna. The sun was so strong in our faces. I couldn't put on sunglasses... Then we saw this tunnel ahead, I thought it would be cool in the tunnel, I thought if you were on the left the sun wouldn't get into your eyes...
  • They were gunning the motorcycles. There were these little backfires. There was one noise like that. I thought it was a backfire. Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arms and saying "no, no, no, no, no," with his fist beating. Then Jack turned and I turned. All I remember was a blue-gray building up ahead. Then Jack turned back so neatly, his last expression was so neat... you know that wonderful expression he had when they'd ask him a question about one of the ten million pieces they have in a rocket, just before he'd answer. He looked puzzled, then he slumped forward. He was holding out his hand … I could see a piece of his skull coming off. It was flesh-colored, not white — he was holding out his hand … I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. Then he slumped in my lap, his blood and his brains were in my lap … Then Clint Hill [the Secret Service man], he loved us, he made my life so easy, he was the first man in the car … We all lay down in the car … And I kept saying, Jack, Jack, Jack, and someone was yelling "he's dead, he's dead." All the ride to the hospital I kept bending over him, saying "Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you, Jack."
  • His head was so beautiful. I tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in... but I knew he was dead.
  • When they carried Jack in, Hill threw his coat over Jack's head, and I held his head to throw the coat over it. It wasn't repulsive to me for one moment — nothing was repulsive to me —
  • These big Texas interns kept saying, "Mrs. Kennedy, you come with us", they wanted to take me away from him... But I said "I'm not leaving"… Dave Powers came running to me at the hospital, crying when he saw me, my legs, my hands were covered with his brains... When Dave saw this he burst out weeping... I said "I'm not going to leave him, I'm not going to leave him"… I was standing outside in this narrow corridor... ten minutes later this big policeman brought me a chair.
  • I said, "I want to be in there when he dies"… so Burkeley forced his way into the operating room and said, "It's her prerogative, it's her prerogative..." and I got in, there were about forty people there. Dr. Perry wanted to get me out. But I said "It's my husband, his blood, his brains are all over me."
  • I held his hand all the time the priest was saying extreme unction.
  • The ring was all blood-stained... so I put the ring on Jack's finger... and then I kissed his hand...
  • Everytime we got off the plane that day, three times they gave me the yellow roses of Texas. But in Dallas they gave me red roses. I thought how funny, red roses — so all the seat was full of blood and red roses.
  • But there's this one thing I wanted to say... I'm so ashamed of myself... When Jack quoted something, it was usually classical... no, don't protect me now... I kept saying to Bobby, I've got to talk to somebody, I've got to see somebody, I want to say this one thing, it's been almost an obsession with me, all I keep thinking of is this line from a musical comedy, it's been an obsession with me... At night before we'd go to sleep... we had an old Victrola. Jack liked to play some records. His back hurt, the floor was so cold. I'd get out of bed at night and play it for him, when it was so cold getting out of bed... on a Victrola ten years old — and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot... "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."...There'll never be another Camelot again...
  • Do you know what I think of history? … For a while I thought history was something that bitter old men wrote. But Jack loved history so... No one'll ever know everything about Jack. But … history made Jack what he was … this lonely, little sick boy … scarlet fever … this little boy sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history … reading the Knights of the Round Table … and he just liked that last song.
    Then I thought, for Jack history was full of heroes. And if it made him this way, if it made him see the heroes, maybe other little boys will see. Men are such a combination of good and bad … He was such a simple man. But he was so complex, too. Jack had this hero idea of history, the idealistic view, but then he had that other side, the pragmatic side... his friends were all his old friends; he loved his Irish Mafia.
  • History!... Everybody kept saying to me to put a cold towel around my head and wipe the blood off... later, I saw myself in the mirror; my whole face spattered with blood and hair... I wiped it off with Kleenex... History! … I thought, no one really wants me there. Then one second later I thought, why did I wash the blood off? I should have left it there, let them see what they've done... If I'd just had the blood and caked hair when they took the picture … Then later I said to Bobby — what's the line between history and drama? I should have kept the blood on.
    • A variant reading of White's notes exists: Then later I said to Bobby — what's the line between histrionics and drama. I should have kept the blood on. but in White's own published memoir In Search of History: A Personal Adventure (1978) this is rendered "what's the line between history and drama?"


Misattributed[edit]

  • An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.
    • Attributed in Wisdom Through the Ages : Book Two (2003) by Helen Granat, p. 118; this actually is cited to Robert Louis Stevenson in The Law of Success (1928) by Napoleon Hill: "An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding; and it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself."

Quotes about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis[edit]

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
In a time of gilt and glitz and perpetual revelation, she was perpetually associated with that thing so difficult to describe yet so simple to recognize, the apotheosis of dignity. ~ Anna Quindlen
  • She changed the White House from a plastic to a crystal bowl.
    • Letitia Baldric, as quoted in A Hero for Our Time (1983) by Ralph G Martin
  • As idealised Jackie Kennedy morphed into debased Jackie Onassis, and Camelot gave way to Watergate, we ceased to believe in the Eden of the Kennedy era, its heroine descending into postlapsarian guise. Her very costume spoke of this fall: America’s patrician princess, all hats, gloves, and ball gowns, was reborn as a permanently sunglassed plutocrat, skulking about in flip-flops, queen of Skorpios only.
  • This was a former First Lady who gave no interviews for 30 years; a book editor who stalwartly refused to pen an autobiography; a woman who excommunicated friends if they spoke about her and fought to suppress unauthorised revelations. It was an irony that while, as Jackie Kennedy, she embraced the most public of public lives, by nature she was the epitome of the private individual, poised and glamorous, yet reticent and aloof.
  • Jackie has been perceived as a sphynx who very definitely possessed a secret. Around this faux blue-blooded beauty spiralled a web of myth and rumour; fantasies she did not deign to respond to that thus took root as fact.
  • People who tried to say no to Jackie found that she would go to great lengths to outwit them.
    • Sarah Bradford, in America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (2001)
  • She had a very acute sense of her image as first lady and how she wanted to use her image to promote her husband's administration and his ideals.
  • Jackie Kennedy grabbed the public’s attention with her chic, yet simple fashion sense. From boxy Chanel suits to Halston pillbox hats, she reshaped fashion’s view of conservative clothes and left a noteworthy fashion legacy behind.
  • Our Jackie is embodied forever in that bloodstained pink suit. She bore the grief of a nation with such dignity, and then guarded her privacy until she died in 1994 at age 64. This Jackie is harshly judgmental, dispensing petty opinions that say as much about her as they do the objects of her disdain.
  • God gave her very great gifts and imposed upon her great burdens. She bore them all with dignity and grace and uncommon common sense. May the flame she lit so long ago burn ever brighter here and always brighter in our hearts. God bless you friend, and farewell.
  • Throughout her life, despite the many tragedies she endured (loosing a husband and a baby boy) her poise and style endured. We adore you Jackie O., you are a role model in every sense! 
  • For her it was imperative that everybody who visited the White House should see a house that was beautiful and lived in and that represented so much of American history.
  • Shortly after her husband’s inauguration, she appointed interior designers to aid her transformation introducing warm tones of strong colours such as blue, yellow and red, and applying geometric symmetry in the positioning of furniture to enhance the magnificence of the arched windows and architectural panelling. She transformed the once stuffy interior into one that exuded grace, elegance and refined formality.
  • Jackie was very modern; her spirit was modern, she was a new image for America because he was a young president.
  • It was not the same relationship or friendship that I had with Audrey (Hepburn). The American people felt emotion for Jackie, but they preferred to have an American couturier design her dresses when they came to France for a state visit.
  • It’s certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on. By then, she’s a different woman.
  • Whenever we took her anywhere, she'd immediately be recognized, and before we knew it there would be a swarm of people gawking, and often approaching her to shake her hand. She would smile graciously and offer a polite greeting, but as soon as we were alone, she'd quip, "You'd think I was someone important, for heaven's sake."
    • Clint Hill on his time protecting her, as quoted in Mrs. Kennedy and Me (2012).
  • I draw so much inspiration from her. How she influenced style, how she influenced bringing so much to the White House when she was there. So many artists were supported by her and definitely with everything she went through, she was so focused on keeping her children safe, protected and loved and really fulfilling their own dreams and she had such an elegance.
  • First the world will call me Bouvier, hey
    Then I'll change to Jackie K.
    After my date with tragedy
    I'll let Aristotle take care of me
    I want to be Jackie Onassis, oh yeah....
  • 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.
  • She said she's crazy about Ted, but she's known for years that I should have done it fifteen years ago. She was so supportive. She even suggested I use her New York lawyer. If Jackie recommends him and says he's distinguished, he must be good.
  • She said I should look out for myself.
  • Jackie also told me that she wishes she had given me this advice before and maybe I wouldn't have gotten so sick. But back then, fifteen years ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to take her advice.
    • Joan Bennett Kennedy, as quoted in Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died (2010) by Edward Klein.
  • I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks at SHAPE Headquarters in Paris, France (2 June 1961)
  • If I had to live my life over again, I would have a different father, a different wife, and a different religion.
  • She was present at a scene of martyrdom and an intimate witness, vulnerable to that moment, escaping death herself. It sealed her fate as part of a tragic, fascinating spectacle that played in millions of minds.
  • The worst thing in her life that could possibly happen, happened. And it happened in broad daylight in front of everyone. It was always happening in front of everyone, a ghastly carnival replay of the worst thing that can happen.
  • By this time, there could be no doubt that Jackie had survived and thrived. McNamara, by contrast, was a disappointed and defeated man. Jackie, after numerous failed attempts, had finally succeeded in fashioning a new life.
    • Barbara Leaming on Onassis' later years, in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story (2014).
  • As she had done so many times in the decades since Dallas, she again grappled with the randomness of the world and the abruptness of tragedy.
    • Barbara Leaming on Onassis' cancer diagnosis, in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story (2014).
  • Jackie loved in Jack the man he wanted to be, and David was the man helping him, in her eyes, to be the man Jack wanted to be.
  • Beautiful, intelligent, elegant and immaculately coutured, Jackie was an integral part of the “Camelot” of John F Kennedy’s presidency.
  • Although she would survive her husband by 30 years, she would be haunted and perhaps defined for the rest of her life by those catastrophic few seconds in Dallas when her husband was assassinated beside her.
  • The film depicts one of the darkest periods in American history and during that time she put the grief of the entire country on her shoulders and she helped carry us through it. It was nothing short of heroic the way she conducted herself that week.
  • The moment when she crawled out onto the back of the open limousine in which her husband had been murdered was the first and last time the American people would see Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis crawl... She was the last great private public figure in this country. In a time of gilt and glitz and perpetual revelation, she was perpetually associated with that thing so difficult to describe yet so simple to recognize, the apotheosis of dignity.
  • I wanna be Jackie Onassis. I wanna wear a pair of dark sunglasses. I wanna be Jackie. Oooh, please don't die!
  • Even during the tragedies Jackie experienced, she was still strong.
  • Looking back at her life, it is no wonder that she continues to inspire so many women today. She was a style icon, famous for her pillbox hats and A-line suits, but also a strong women who dealt with endless personal crises (she later also lost her second husband and her brother-in-law) in the public eye. Many of her words went on to inspire new generations, and her determination to keep on going is something all women can learn from today.
  • Let the skeptics snort about Camelot, but there was something during the Kennedy years that was magic. Jackie was more of that than anyone admitted for a long while. She smoothed the rough Kennedy edges. As much as anyone in those heady days, she grasped the epic dimensions of the adventure. No small portion of the glamour of the Kennedy stewardship that lives on today came from her standards of public propriety and majesty.
    • Hugh Sidey, as quoted in TIME magazine, Vol. 143 (1994)
  • As far as Jackie was concerned, the only thing better than a rich man was an obscenely rich man.
    • Gore Vidal, as quoted in The Good Son: JFK Jr. and the Mother He Loved (2014) by Christopher Andersen
  • All she was fundamentally interested in was money. That was really the guiding motive of her life.
    • John White, Times–Herald writer, as quoted in America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (2001) by Sarah Bradford
  • No one wakes up looking the way she did, especially not when they are on vacation. There had to have been a method to her exquisite madness—if by madness we mean locating, and then donning, the perfect big—but not too big!—sunglasses, the loveliest wind-defying silk head scarf, the just-jaunty-enough basket bag, and always, always the flawless string of pearls.

External links[edit]

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