The Day Jackie Kennedy Was President

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. 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. Jacqueline Kennedy with Romulo Betancourt during a state visit she made to Venezuela with President Kennedy in December of 1961 (Corbis) While meeting with Rolando Leandro Mora, Venezuela’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, she verbally conveyed to him a timely message, requesting he personally convey it to that nation’s president Romulo Betancourt. Betancourt had not come to Washington himself because he was running in a crucial presidential re-election, which he would win one week after the Kennedy funeral. Nine months before her husband’s funeral, Jackie Kennedy stood in a receiving line with Venezuelan President Romulo Batancourt at a Venezuelan embassy event. An anti-communist ally JFK had relied upon to remain a bulwark of democracy in South America, Betancort had survived an assassination attempt the year Kennedy had been elected President. In a letter Jackie Kennedy then wrote Betancourt reiterating what she told Mora, she touched on the issue of assassination, from a political viewpoint, rather than her own personal loss: “He [JFK] feared for your life and for the whole future of Latin America, if anything ever happened to you…Please be

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Categories: First Ladies, Presidents, The Kennedys

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