Category Archives: John F. Kennedy

BOOK REVIEWS: “Upstairs at the White House” and “Backstairs at the White House”

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West (1973), Warner Books
My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House by Lillian Rogers Parks (1961), Fleet Publishing
Reviewed by Gregory Hilton
Margaret (Maggie) Rogers could not afford a babysitter so she often took her daughter to work. She was a maid and her daughter Lillian would follow her from room to room as she did her daily cleaning. One afternoon she was told to turn down the bed in the master bedroom. As soon as Mrs. Rogers finished, she was summoned to help the lady of the house with a dress fitting. Lillian, 9, was told to stay behind in the bedroom. Continue reading

Trivia Questions About the First Ladies by Gregory Hilton

1) Which brilliant First Lady used her own money to send 46 disadvantaged young people to college? The press never knew of her generosity and neither did her husband. He only discovered what she had done after her death. Continue reading

50 Years Ago Today: The First Kennedy/Nixon Debate

Opening statement of Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-MA):
“In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln said the question was whether this nation could exist half-slave or half-free. In the election of 1960, and with the world around us, the question is whether the world will exist half-slave or half-free, whether it will move in the direction of freedom, or whether it will move in the direction of slavery. . . The kind of strength we build in the United States will be the defense of freedom. . . If we fail, then freedom fails. . . . Continue reading

50 Years Ago Today: John F. Kennedy Accepts Democratic Nomination and Launches the New Frontier

"The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. One-third of the world may be free, but one-third is the victim of a cruel repression, and the other third is rocked by poverty, hunger and disease. "Communist influence has penetrated into Asia; it stands in the Middle East; and now festers some ninety miles off the coast of Florida. . . Our ends will not be won by rhetoric, and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves." - Senator John F. Kennedy, July 15, 1960

It was 50 years ago today that Senator John F. Kennedy (MA) accepted the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. He defeated Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) who had entered the race only one week before the convention. In responding to Johnson’s accusation, Kennedy denied having Addison’s disease, but it was later proven to be true. Kennedy had defeated liberal Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) in the primaries, and Johnson never came close to derailing Kennedy’s nomination. Continue reading

The Missile and Bomber Gaps: The Grand Deceptions of the 1960 Presidential Campaign by Gregory Hilton

Today in 1961 President Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address. The best known portion is when the departing President warned “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Continue reading

Back by Popular Demand: More Presidential Trivia by Gregory Hilton

1) A woman taking a tour of the White House was unexpectedly introduced to the President. He asked her to stay for tea and proposed marriage two months later. Who was her husband?

2) Why did Secret Service agents always want to avoid shopping trips with Mamie Eisenhower? For the same reason they did not want to accept gifts from Mrs. Eisenhower. They were not reluctant to watch her favorite soap opera, “Days of Our Lives,” and to tell her about the plot when she was called away.

3) Why did Lynda and Luci Johnson carry flashlights in their bathrobes? Luci converted to the Roman Catholic faith while she was in the White House. Lynda had the first White House wedding in 53 years.

4) During her time as First Lady, how many states west of the Potomac River were visited by Jacqueline Kennedy?

5) Why did President Johnson’s 1965 party in honor of the U.S. Congress, which included several Hollywood stars, begin at 2 am?

6) Vice President Alben Barkley was elected in 1948 but he was not President Harry Truman’s first choice. Who was originally asked to be Truman’s running mate?

7) White House servants noted several significant differences between Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Can you name one of them? It had nothing to do with FDR’s disability.

8) Which President attended 6 Inaugural Balls, but despite pleas from the crowd never danced at any of them? He is the only President who always visited the basement level kitchen after formal events to thank the staff. The answer is not FDR who was unable to dance.

9) Which President never joined any church until after his election? He later said many important decisions were made “on his knees,” and in recent years he has been criticized for combining church and state.

10) President and Mrs. James Monroe enjoyed entertaining and there were frequent Wednesday evening parties at the White House. How did they avoid party crashers?

11) Dwight Eisenhower had never heard of Mrs. Thomas Preston when she was seated next to him at a dinner party. They discussed life in DC and he asked her where she had lived in the nation’s capitol. Mrs. Preston was a resident of the White House for 8 years when she was First Lady. Who was her husband?

12) Why was Ronald Reagan sworn in as Governor of California at midnight?
1) Woodrow Wilson. The first Mrs. Wilson died in 1914 and he was introduced to Edith Bolling Galt when she was taking a tour of the family quarters in 1915. She was waiting by the elevator when the President emerged after his tennis game. The second Mrs. Wilson died on the morning of December 28, 1961 at the age of 89. It was the day she was scheduled to officially open the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River.
2) Mrs. Eisenhower always asked her agents to buy presents for their wives when she was shopping. She could be rather insistent, and she wanted to see what they had purchased. Her gifts were often intended for their wives, and she frequently asked the agents to buy something that would go with it. For example, she would give the agent a bracelet and ask him to buy his wife a ring to accompany her gift. It was expensive for the agents to provide security for Mamie Eisenhower!
3) The Johnson girls carried flashlights because their father insisted on keeping all the overhead lights turned off. It was part of his economy drive, but household costs still increased significantly under LBJ. The big factor was that the White House was no longer able to use bootleg liquor. This was liquor which has been confiscated by the federal government.
4) Mrs. Kennedy frequently took a White House helicopter to her rented “Glen Ora” estate in northern Virginia for horseback riding in 1961. The family built their own estate, “Wexford,” in 1962, but President Kennedy only visited his home on three weekends. He preferred Camp David.
Ironically, Ronald Reagan spent more time at Wexford than John Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy also visited nearby Middleburg and other Virginia hunt country destinations. Until she left for Dallas in 1963, those were the only times she crossed the Potomac River. She never ventured west of northern Virginia prior to that fateful day.
5) The party started late because Congress was in session and LBJ did not want to begin until the House had passed the Lady Bird Johnson Highway Beautification Act which banned billboards on interstate highways.
6) Truman’s first choice for Vice President was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who turned him down because he thought the President would lose the 1948 election. Douglas had also been FDR’s first choice in 1944.
7) The Truman’s not only remembered names of all the servants but they insisted on introducing the staff to all of their guests. When the waiter brought tea to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, he was introduced to the royal couple. The Truman’s dined together and were often in the same room in the evening hours. That does not appear unusual, but no one could remember Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt being in the same room.
8) Richard Nixon. He did dance at his daughter’s wedding.
9) Dwight Eisenhower, who was responsible for adding “In God We Trust” to the currency.
10) A party crasher would not have had a problem in meeting President Monroe. The butler’s were told to admit anyone who was suitably dressed.
11) The first husband of Mrs. Thomas Preston was President Grover Cleveland. The dinner is described in “At Ease: Stories I Tell to My Friends” by Dwight Eisenhower.
12) Mrs. Reagan’s astrologer, Joan of San Francisco, said midnight would be the best time for an Inauguration.
13) This 1927 photo was taken during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Changed the World by Gregory Hilton

Many of my friends are associated with fundraising activities for Special Olympics or Best Buddies. Mrs. Shriver has left us but we will never forget her. Hero’s such as Mrs. Shriver are rare not because any single deed was so amazing, but because the culmination of her work changed the world forever. To the Shriver family, thank you for sharing her with us for so many years. She obviously loved her work but she loved you the most.
Jacqueline Kennedy said “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” By her yardstick, Eunice Shriver’s life was a tremendous success. Mrs. Shriver’s stories were wonderful and she was kind to share memories with us. She was a participant in events I could only read about.
In charitable organizations it is common to work closely with people who have a different political outlook. That was obviously true of Mrs. Shriver, and while we did not agree, her observations were always insightful. Our first conversation was in early June of 1992 when Bill Clinton was running third in the polls behind George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. I thought Clinton was a certain loser, but Mrs. Shriver had far more wisdom.
I watched her funeral on C-Span and they re-played some of Mrs. Shriver’s outstanding speeches from the past. Maria Shriver’s eulogy was well done and all four of her son’s head up non-profit organizations.
Mrs. Shriver’s work lives on through Save The Children, Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“When the full judgment on the Kennedy legacy is made — including JFK’s Peace Corps, Robert Kennedy’s passion for civil rights and Ted Kennedy’s efforts on health care — the changes wrought by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential,” Harrison Rainie, author of “Growing Up Kennedy,” U.S. News & World Report.
“She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She taught us by example and with passion what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others.” – The Washington Post
Michael Barone of AEI: “The Shriver’s took the advantages they had in life, and their disappointments as well, and created two great institutions which will live on and serve people and enrich America for many years to come. The Peace Corps and Special Olympics share an important characteristic: they encourage and enable people to do things that they and those around them might have thought impossible.
“Peace Corps volunteers are empowered to spend two years living and working in a foreign country. Special Olympics participants are empowered to achieve measurable goals. Both teach the lesson that we can exceed limits that seem imposed on us.
“All of us should shed a tear for Eunice Shriver, and for Sargent Shriver too, a tear of happiness and gratitude for what they have given their country and the world.”
“She used her influence not to advance her own interests but to help others, to open a world of new possibilities to a population that had been confined to silence and darkness. Her legacy lives on in the millions of people she empowered to strive on the field of competition and beyond — and to be brave in the attempt.” – The Washington Post