Mrs. Kennedy next describes the President’s reaction to the gift—and discusses their differing approaches to connoisseurship. “But I know you gave it to us both and I just wish you could have seen how it affected Jack—‘My God’ (this is the most profane letter)—he kept saying—‘that’s incredible—but it’s so beautiful—and look at the frame—but they couldn’t be giving this to us.’ I had never told him about it—but always thought he had the most fantastic eye—he doesn’t study drawings and furniture like I do—but in all the changes we have made here—or things you wonder about—he comes in at the last minute and uninformed—always agrees with the expert—(often over-riding me)—or suggests placing a bust of Houdon some place I never would have thought of and he is always right. And all that instinct—which is the best—came out when he saw Mount Vernon. It is now in our bedroom … and nothing in the world could you have found that we would both love more.”
In praising the McNamara’s cleverness, Mrs. Kennedy makes an odd allusion to the Tactical Fighter Experimental, an attempt to merge the production of fighter jets for the different military services that would be one of the major failures of McNamara’s tenure as head of the Department of Defense. “You should be the heads of CIA—not TFX—to ferret such things out."
Even as she recognizes that her thanks may have been too prolonged, the First Lady expands the conclusion of her letter to voice her gratitude to the McNamaras, not just for gift of a historic view of Mount Vernon, but for their friendship and loyalty to her and the President: “It is our greatest treasure—for what it is and because it comes from both of you. Yes we did change your lives—or rather Jack did—and it has brought travail—and of all the people I know—we few—we often unhappy band of brothers—who will live through these difficult years—it is you who are the most—there is no word for it—giving? loyal?—unforgettable. I don’t care if every other Cabinet member sees what I write—! I suddenly beg your forgiveness for this interminable letter. Just let me say once more that the picture—which we would love anyway—coming from you—for the first house we have ever really had—makes it something so special.”
The assassination of President Kennedy just seven months after this letter was written lends a special poignancy to its final paragraph. “I must spare you further words and pages—but please always know how touched—and stunned—and delighted we were—when we opened it together—and what we will think of when we look at it for the rest of our lives.”
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