The Day Jackie Kennedy Was President

Jacqueline Kennedy welcomes Soviet Ambassador Mikoyan at her post-funeral White House reception for world leaders.

Jacqueline Kennedy welcomes Mikoyan at her post-funeral White House reception for world leaders.

She held no Cabinet meeting, issued no orders and signed no legislation.

Yet in a brief interim of several hours on the afternoon of Monday, November 25, 1963, with her late husband the President having just been buried and his constitutional successor purposefully keeping out of the White House, it was Jacqueline Kennedy who acted as the head of state of the United States, a commanding figure meeting with world leaders who showed her a level of respect reserved for their equals.

Edward and Jacqueline Kennedy welcome a delegation of East Asian representatives.

Edward and Jacqueline Kennedy welcome a delegation of East Asian representatives.

For about two hours, the former First Lady held court in the White House Red Room as she received some eight dozen separate international delegations, each one headed by a Prime Ministers, President, King or Queen and one Emperor, who had come for the funeral. Even though she held no official power, there was also nobody in the government at that moment to filter or censor whatever she determined to say. When Chief of Protocol Angier Duke attempted to order the delegations alphabetically, he got no where with her. She wanted it to flow naturally. She was in charge.

She seized the fleeting moments to affirm an agenda on behalf of her nation.

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