"Memorials can never replace men": In a passionate letter, Mrs. Kennedy confides to McNamara that she fears that the administrators of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library are failing to realize the vision and potential of the institution. The Kennedy Library was originally—and at the time of this letter, still—planned to be built on land chosen by JFK, adjacent to the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.
"What would any of us do without you? I think as I write this letter—we appeal to you when we are drowning—and you save us—
"You don't have to bother with any of this—sometimes I wonder if it does matter—& isn't [it] just easier to give up fighting—Memorials can never replace men—& one just argues to exhaustion with a lot of wooden people who will have it their way in the end anyway—
"It's about the Library—now that you, thank heavens, (or was it cruel to inflict you with?) are a trustee of it—
"What is happening is that it is on its way to becoming the deadliest place in the world—and gradually the Institute,—which was the vital part one wanted to reflect Jack, will be swallowed up by the School of Government—which just turns out a lot of dreary men who love to spend their lives trading position papers back and forth." Mrs. Kennedy has sent McNamara the minutes from the last meeting of the trustees, but she cautions that "I don't know how watered down they are—if all our objections & my explosion was deleted."
She is particularly critical of Richard Neustadt, the first director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, which is housed within the John F. Kennedy School of Government, of which he was a founder. "Dick Neustadt is the biggest disillusionment of all—He puffs on his pipe—& obviously his temperment is most compatible with a nice safe professional womb to hide in—He picks the dreariest fellows … He cares more about the approval of his colleagues & not shaking up Harvard—than he does about doing anything original & innovative." Referring to McNamara's having been accosted by the SDS during a 1966 visit to the Harvard campus, Mrs. Kennedy remarks, "Then they all point to your riot when I say they shouldn't be so safe!" The trustees of the Institute do not receive many kind words either, with the exception of Scoop Jackson, the Senator from Washington State, who she describes as "a bit more like me—but he has no one else on his side."
Mrs. Kennedy ponders if the Library might be an appropriate site to incorporate a memorial for Robert F. Kennedy, acknowledging that the Library "wouldn't be there without Bobby." But she is uncertain if a decision on that might further delay the construction of presidential library. She also expresses her concern that Harvard University will hold too much influence over the Library. "Do you realize—we gave Harvard $20 million—plus 13 acres of land they have always coveted & could never get … in return they named their dismal school of Government after Jack—and in so doing, assured they'd always keep the Institute under their thumb. Byron White says we should have known that would happen all along—but we were all in shock & in a hurry." In between paragraphs, Mrs. Kennedy here squeezed in a further comment that must have occurred to her later: "And we also gave them the papers of President Kennedy—which forever will be one of their greatest treasures—AND Ernest Hemingway's papers—which Mrs. H. could have sold for one million dollars!"
Mrs. Kennedy's frustration with Harvard intensifies as the letter winds towards its conclusion. "I can think of nothing that would give me greater pleasure than to leave the Harvard Corporation with its mouth watering—& put President Kennedy's papers in Washington—with Archives—or in an adequate working Library-Warehouse somewhere in Massachusetts—Other sites were offered us—or in Ireland!
"And Jack & Bobby would not mind the discomfort at the Corporation—it would give them a laugh in heaven—"
The establishment of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum continued to be troubled. In May 1971, the presidential library of Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was dedicated at the University of Texas at Austin. In February 1975, in the face of opposition to having the Kennedy Library built at Cambridge, the site of the JFK Library was transferred to Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Construction of I. M. Pei's design was finally begun in 1977 and the Library—under the administration of the National Archives and Records Administration—was officially dedicated on 20 October 1979.