tv The Presidency Mark Updegrove Incomparable Grace - JFK in the Presidency CSPAN August 3, 2022 6:17pm-7:01pm EDT
this evening. i'm welcoming you under our roof here at historic decatur house, which is the home of the white house historical association. we are honored to occupy this property that is owned >> this evening, i'm welcoming you under a written historic decatur house which is the home of the white house historical association. we are honored to occupy this poverty that is owned by chris for preservation, one of our partners and our work. it is terrific to have them here. we have three members of our board of directors were here this evening, martha kumar is here. i've seen martha. and needed mcbride will be here shortly, if she's not here already. and david varia is on our board here, over on the right. it's an honor to have all of you here, as well as several members of our national council on white house history, which we are always grateful to have. well, this evening it is my honor and privilege to introduce a really terrific
friend of mine and a friend of the white house historical association. mark updegrove serves as a president and ceo of the lbj foundation in austin, texas. he's a presidential historian for abc news and also an accomplished author. mark has actually authored five books on the presidency, including this book that we are celebrating this evening, incomparable grace, jfk in the presidency. i had the privilege of recording a podcast this afternoon with mark, which we will release later in the month on the book is officially released. it was a fascinating conversation, i really enjoyed my time with mark and i think you're going to enjoy the time with him here this evening. he has also written for the new york times, the politico, national geographic, time, the daily beast, usa today and, most recently, he has been the executive producer for cnn's original series, lbj, triumph
and tragedy. if that is not enough, mark has had the privilege to be the envy of every journalist and historian who has interviewed, exclusively, seven american presidents throughout his career. it was 61 years ago that a young john f. kennedy was sworn into the office, up at the capitol. and by his side was jacqueline kennedy, who had become a first lady. she herself would go down in history as being one of our most influential first ladies, we have our particular reverence for her here at the white house historical association. it was later that, day on inauguration day, that the president and mrs. kennedy ended up at the white house. and mrs. kennedy realized that this was a home, the peoples house, as she would call it. it was badly in need of historic restoration. she believed that the white house should represent the very best of america. artisans, craftsman, decorative arts, fine arts, furnishings. and so, she took that on as her project over the course of the next three years,
cut short tragically by the assassination of president kennedy. but when she put in place that is still the legacy of her influence of historic preservation at the white house, acquisitions for the collection and actually education, that's a key part of our mission. and we are mrs. kennedy's living legacy at the white house today. well, it was those 61 years ago that we were founded by her. and today we continue to undertake that work. my colleague, colleen at that david rubenstein is two for history, which is the educational part of our work. we publish books, we published a quarterly magazine, we have conferences, symposia, book events like this. so, publishing and storytelling are a vital part of what we do. encouraging friends who can unpack these stories, i asked mark earlier, another book on john kennedy, do we really need
another book on john kennedy? but then i read it, i read the book myself and it reads like a novel. it is insightful and inspiring and i'm finding myself reorientate in a really special way to the kennedy presidency, and i think we can thank mark for that. i know you all enjoy reading the book. well, it was in 1792 that the cornerstone for the white house was laid just about 200 yards away from where we're sitting tonight. and a whole lot of white house history has taken place in those years, since 1792. tonight, we're going to focus on three years of that history, a very important three areas. interviewing mark this evening is amna nawaz, she serves as the pbs news our chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor. she has been honored with an emmy award for her nbc news special, inside the obama white house. it's society for features for now as more ward. she's the recipient
of the national reporting project fellowship. and, in 2019, received a peep audio word for her news our series on the global plastic problem. tonight, she's going to discuss with mark this terrific new book which, remarkably, reexamines the kennedy presidency for us. that has so often been trapped behind the myth of kamala, not if you will. this will be a portrait of the kennedy presidency, its visions, of flaws, a charm. it's triumphs, failures and, certainly, it's grace. so, bringing those stories to life for us this evening, please welcome amna and mark to the stage. thank you all. [applause] >> hello, everyone. how nice to be in person with people. and especially with you, mark, thanks so much for having me here. >> thanks much for doing this.
wow, we got amna, that's big stuff. >> here's one thing i'll say before we jump into questions, i have no personal connection to the kennedys. my family had not even stepped foot on these floors at the time that he was president. and yet, i was fascinated by this book, stuart is right, it absolutely reads like a novel. i can't wait for everyone else to get a chance to read it to. but let's go through some of my burning questions first, here's the way this is going to work. i've got about 20 minutes with you and then i love to open it up to the room for any questions you have as well. if you checking my phone it's not because i have somewhere to be, it's because i want to be respectful of everyone's time. as stewart mentioned, there are a few books about jfk out there. >> just a few. >> some series, some films. i watched them. why jfk? why did you decide to do this? >> wonderful question. before i
answer, let me just thank you again for doing this. as i understand, you have an evening job at pbs news hour so it's good for you to make time for this. thank you to my friend, stewart mclaurin, and all the people at the white house historic institution for running this marvelous institution. thank you to my friend, lauren leader, for organizing this with our mutual friend kimball stroud. and thank you friends, old and new for coming tonight, i'm so grateful for you being here. there's so many people i'd like to recognized but one if i may. it really leads to your question, in answer to your question. and sidey is here, and sidey is the widow of hugh sidey, their legendary president watcher for time magazine. i have the great privilege of working with hugh and got to know and and hue
through the years. i will tell you, he was actually the president of the white house historical association, some 20 years ago. so, this placement a great deal to hugh. but he spent time with john f. kennedy and, very crucial hours of his presidency. i heard from hugh who john f. kennedy was, beyond the camelot mid. that got me very intrigued about john f. kennedy, he and i worked on a joint project called time in the presidency. he started that project calling a talking about john f. kennedy and who he was, but he meant to this country. well there have been many books that have been written, there's an old expression, write the book you want to read. this is the book that i wanted to read about john f. kennedy. i tried to make it a very brisk narrative that makes you feel as though you are going through these very tumultuous, very triumphant in many ways, tragic and others, days of the kennedy presidency. and that you are
there with him, day in and day out, as he wrestles with one issue or another. so, it's episodic in a way i didn't see the other kennedy treatments. i also wanted to wrestle with the kamala mid, which overshadows kennedy in so many respects. it deprives him, and so many ways, of his humanity. so, that was important me to. there's only books with an agenda. i only agenda was to capture this indelible president and what he meant to the country and the momentous decisions that came across his desk. >> the country is still so fascinated by him and by the family, this myth of camelot. it's still really grips americans to this day. why do you think that is? >> you and i were just talking about this. >> i'm still trying to figure it out. >> i get that. i think it boils down to this. john f. kennedy was and continues to be how we see ourselves in the world.
youthful, ambitious, elegant, intelligent, compassionate and instilling the notion or embodying the notion of service over self. that is the image that he refused abroad at a time when we are the envy of the world in many respects. i think that's the way we want to see ourselves. he's a personification, in many ways, and so is, to a certain extent, the vibrations kennedy family, of how we want to be seen. >> did you learn something new about him and writing this? >> i learned a lot new. one of the things, i thought i knew this history pretty well, talking about civil rights as being a very important of the kennedy presidency. but one of the things i, found out, why did he move on civil rights as he did in 1963? he was wrestling with it in many ways.
there are the freedom rides in 1961, there is the integration of ole miss with the matriculation of james meredith in 1962. the same thing happens the university of alabama and 63. then there is the civil rights movements direct action campaign at birmingham. during the course of that campaign, when martin luther king is taken to jail and writes the famous letter from the birmingham jail, the weight of the civil rights cause is coming down on kennedy and his presidency. and it looks like he has to act, he's very reluctant to act and do anything other than to protect civil rights marchers. i've always wondered why he did it at that moment. it turns out that bobby kennedy, who was his brother's chief aide, most trusted and close adviser, it was down south to alabama and meets with george wallace. meets with horrific resistance down there. people are hurling epithets that him and treating
him certainly not like he's the attorney general of the united states. interestingly enough, a more poignant for episode for bobby kennedy comes when he meets with james baldwin, the novelist. and a group of african american entertainers and artists at bobby kennedy's father's penthouse in manhattan. it is a very uncomfortable situation, where they are confronting bobby kennedy with the racism that the kennedy administration has not addressed. they are unrelenting in their criticism of him. it has a searing impression on him, he goes back to the white house and, at first, he criticizes those who are at the party. talks about baldwin and how horrible he is, that he's gay, oh my god, would
a horrendous thing. this is another time, obviously. then he says, you know what, if i wasn't the same shoes, i'd be saying the same thing. i think he had a marked impression on his brother as well and, finally, his brother decides, when george wallace, the segregation is governor of alabama, blocks the auditorium. stewart went to the university of alabama so he knows as well. blocks an administrative building so that to african americans can't reach circulating to the institution. kennedy says, you know what's, i'm not going to let him of the stage here. i'm going to talk about civil rights. bobby encourages him to do that, he does, that he elevates civil rights to a moral issue. the interesting thing is, they don't have enough time to make an address. ted size and says i don't have enough time to give your proper address. but bobby tell his brother, speak extemporaneously, speak from the heart. that speech, which was one of his rhetorical high points, most of it is
extemporaneous. that was something that really surprise me, how it came to fruition, how he came to embrace the civil rights movement as a moral issue. >> that's fascinating. he listened to his brother over the advice of most of his advisers, right? >> that's exactly right. his advisers tell him not to do it. bobby says, no, you feel it, go out and tell the american people how you feel. >> one thing that fascinated me about the book is the way you broken it up. you've got four parts, basically. the torch, the fire, the brink and the peak. explain that a little bit. why break it up that way, went to each of those mean? >> each i think take you through the kennedy presidency. the church has been passed, that famous passage from his ignored duration street. the torch was passed to a new generation of americans. the oldest president in the history to that point, dwight eisenhower, is leaving, and the youngest president elect in our
history is coming in. that's a generational shift so the torch has been passed. and at that point january candidates catching the imagination of the american people. but john f. kennedy captured leads by two tenths of percentage point. by the time if we vote inaugurated as the soaring ignored -- american people are calling on john f. kennedy. so much so that when he meets the fire of his presidency so, the torch has been passed then the fire has yet to come, and the fire comes with the pace and a number of other things that john f. kennedy simply can't anticipate. but it says something about kennedy and the american people at that time, and that country in another era, that when kennedy suffers this huge black eye in his presidency, with the bay of pigs quagmire, where 100, over 100 cuban nationalists were killed in the incursion of cuban and 1200 were taken captive, and the american people approve of john f. kennedy to the tune of 83%. only 5% of americans disapprove of janet kennedy's job approval
at the time. we rallied around our young president at a time when we were fighting for hearts and minds with the soviet union. we know how important it was to put all we had behind this young and in many ways inexperienced, callow president. so that's the fire. the peak. sorry, the brink comes in 1962 with the cuban missile crisis, where we find ourselves on the brink of possible nuclear holocaust, where we stare eye to eye with the soviet union as they are bringing missiles into cuba, largely as a result of the failed inclusion of cuba with the bay of pigs. that emboldens khrushchev, kennedys counterpart in the soviet union, and we come as close as we've ever come to the brink of nuclear disaster. it's a 13 harrowing days. i was talking about with my friend hugh sidey,
and husband, and he talked about meeting with john f. kennedy at the height of the cuban missile crisis. and it was at night and they ended up, kennedy and you, had a long conversation in the oval office, and then kennedy decides he wants to go skinny dipping into says, well, i don't have a suit he. says you, don't need one. [laughter] but he leaves, he leaves the white house and goes through those black gates, not knowing whether there is going to be a tomorrow. that's how dark those days were. so that was the brink. and then the peak comes after that, in 1963, where kennedy stands at the peak of his presidency. he has resolved the cuban missile crisis peacefully against all odds. and he gains the esteem of the world. and he's standing at his peak when he's cut down in his prime. >> that slim margin of victory, i don't think it's talked about enough.
>> it's amazing. >> because you try to imagine what that would look like if it happened today. and it would be a very different reaction they think. so why, how can you maintain that kind of popularity? that sort of approval rating? was it him? was it where the country was at the time? a combination of the two? >> i think it's partly a combination. people ask me all the time where joe biden get a better lbj. and the answer is because the world has changed. our nation has changed--. john f. kennedy has a two thirds majority in the house and the senate. he's battling on civil rights at least he's battling his own party in the south. but nonetheless they're pretty handsome majorities. the media landscape was far more -- as much as any, there wasn't a proliferation of fragmentation of the media that we have today. we had three networks, abc, nbc, cbs. pbs would come along much later in 1967. we had just a few newspapers. and so there was a more centrist a
few of the world, and again, it says something major that kennedy would be as popular as he was just shortly into his presidency wasn't he wasn't doing so well on the world stage. >> you know a thing or two about lbj, fair to say. [laughs] talk to me about their relationship. what was that like? >> well, people talk about the kennedys and lbj. and the kennedys were not monolithic. they were different candidates and they had different relationships. about the relationship between jack kennedy and lyndon johnson was amicable. there was a mutual respect, grudging at times, but mutual respect. john kennedy remembered when he got when he wanted to get something done is a senator from massachusetts, a backbencher who didn't achieve a whole lot relative relative to the piers he had in the upper chamber, but he remembers he had to go through lyndon johnson, the all powerful janet
senate majority leader. his father, joe kennedy, the kennedy patriarch, had an enormous respect for lyndon johnson. in fact he told his son, don't take the second spot on the 1956 democratic ticket unless lyndon johnson is the presidential nominee. and even offered to fund the campaign if lyndon johnson chooses to run. so there was great respect their. i think the confusion about this comes where bobby kennedy comes in. bobby kennedy despised lyndon johnson and lyndon johnson didn't feel any differently about bobby kennedy. there were just fundamentally different people. but i think john f. kennedy really, he picked lyndon johnson to go on the ticket for two reasons. one, three reasons, rather. one was political. he needed the southern balance on the ticket. and what better balance ended and johnson from austin, texas. he had so much power. but the second one is that he picked a vice president because he was the person most capable in his view of operating in the presidency should something happen to him.
and then that, that was the case. >> i mean, when you look back on it now, you see there's so much reflection on his abbreviated presidency, right? but it was an incredibly eventful presidency. just that short tenure. so you mentioned the cuban missile crisis, of course, what we were actually facing at the time. was that, is it fair to say that was sort of the darkest hour? was that the worst that it got? out was there the greatest triumph too for him? >> yeah. there's no question in my mind. that is the darkest moment. not only in the kennedy presidency, but maybe the darkest moment in humankind to come that close to nuclear annihilation. bear in mind, the majority of the american people at that point in time believed that there's going to be a nuclear exchange imminently. that's how tense the relationship was between the soviet union and the united states of america. it's interesting because there's, there's a transition between eisenhower and kennedy, the second of two meetings that
they had, and this, when it takes place in january 19th, 1961, the day before kennedy is inaugurated as president. and they talk about the trouble spots in the world, all the trouble spots, of which there are many. and you can see eisenhower's almost relief in relinquishing these problems and giving them over to jack kennedy. and kennedy leaves the white house and as the limousine is departing, he looks at an aid in the back seat and says of eisenhower, how can he stare in the face of disaster with such equanimity? but it's equanimity which defines kennedy in that most, you know, dark power, in that most desperate hour of his presidency in the cuban missile crisis. he has come. there's almost preternatural calm that comes over jfk. he's measured, he doesn't panic, he doesn't paint himself into a corner, and he's desperately looking for a way out.
>> i mean, that is the public kennedy, write? the grace under pressure. and as you say in the title, what's he like that in private as well, all the time? >> you know, i think so. has he used to say, he was very compartmentalized. different people saw different jack kennedy. we'd say the same about lyndon johnson. but he, there was a certain vitality that he had. you know, we look at him as being so vigorous, so youthful, but he had battled illness his whole life. and i think he saw the tenuous-ness of human life. he had been in world war ii and lost his brother day, he lost his sister soon thereafter. his sister, rosemary, had a lot to me because of retardation. that was something that was meant to be a cure. so he thought a fleeting hold that life had, and he tried to make the most of his life. but i think those hours, those really crucial hours, the cerebral kennedy
kicked in. and he was really thoughtful about what the best approach would be going forward. he was determined to avoid military conflict. in laos, when the berlin wall went up, and of course, during the cuban missile crisis. he wanted peace and i think that calm, not reacting in anger, not reacting passionately, not listening to the jingoistic military advisers who were telling him that he needed to engage, that it defines kennedy in his best moments in the presidency. >> what about today? 60 years later, what's his legacy? on the party, on the presidency, on the country? >> he [noise] i'm going to read a passage from my book if i may. >> [laughs]. >> i would bastardized this if -- i really thought about this, how did i want to end the book? and what his legacy looks like and. here's what i came up with. throughout the course of his restless, averaged rain in the white house, he dealt with
the pressures of the office, standing on feet of clay at times, showing flashes of greatness at others. but all he did indelibly, honor and grace edging out recklessness and abandon, calling for the best in all of us. and i think in so many ways kennedy, again, he personifies that notion of service over self. the phrase we must remember with john f. kennedy is, ask not. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. and that's become this timeless expression of an american idea. that we should all be reaching beyond ourselves. and kennedy, at his rhetorical heights gets us to do that. >> i could keep going another our. but i will stop here and open it up to the room. anyone who has a question. first tent went up. yeah? >> yes. i was intrigued with the -- [noise] the reference
that you cited, a member of the media, astonishing -- society. and i recall catherine graham's memoir, in which he examined the relationship between the media, the press, and the presidency, and how close it was. to talk about hugh sidey going swimming with the president in the pool on the night that seemed so dark, lbj comes along in a tragic murder. how did that relationship change, and in what way? it seems to me that -- and i like to hear your talk about this -- whether or not john kennedy's profile with the press i didn't his profile around the world,
and whether or not it changed relationship had an effect on lyndon johnson's profile? >> our friend riley temple, great question, riley. you know, john f. kennedy was a journalist who worked for the first newspapers during the second world war briefly, after he came back from combat. and he admired journalists. he thought in fact in his post presidency that he might by a newspaper or become -- and i think it was a distinct possibility that he would have done that. he appreciated before the state is being a iv estate of being a fundamental part of american democracy. but you also knew the value of cultivating those relationships. and i can tell you in talking to hugh, who had a few scars probably on his cast from being kicked from, at least metaphorically, by john f. kennedy at time or two for his coverage. he had an enormous respect for you and what he did. he had respect for the profession of journalism. he also knew the clout of time magazine in q's case. you know, time magazine was a pretty much at the time. i think that
things start to fade when, doing the johnson presidency. bear in mind, john f. kennedy creates this liberal tide, that's a liberal in the most liberal sense, that flows into the johnson presidency. faith in government in 1964 stands at 77%. and that's largely because of john f. kennedy, i think, having us believe in ourselves, and believe in our government. but lyndon johnson, wow, he takes advantage of that. he looks through the laws he put through the laws of the great society, most in 1960, five -- elected presidents in his own right. faces the quagmire of vietnam. and he is not necessarily truthful with the american people, either by his own doing or because he's being misled by his advisers. and the war becomes more and more controversial, the press becomes more and more critical.
and i think that's when they sort of start things start to slide. but you know all presidents have a mixed relationship with the press. barack obama came to the lbj library, where there's a -- four lyndon johnson. if i walk across the potomac, the headline in the next days washington post would be, president can't swim. [laughter] that never changes, right? there's always some, an adversarial relationship. but john f. kennedy, i think, he began the press about his as well as any president ever has. thanks, riley. >> we can just work our way across the room. >> thank you, thank you for being here. the lbj special was really lovely. so, congrats on that. >> thank you. >> with both of these presidents, what would you vote
look for in a voter as a modern president? >> say that again? >> what would you look for as a president? you, as a scholar of the presidency. >> i've been asked this before. i think, at the end of the day, all presidents are different. they come in with different skill sets and experiences, they come in with different visions and a looks on the world. i think it's hard to paint any leader with the same brush, we should expect different things from different leaders. because not everyone is capable of the same things. at the end of the day, the best we can expect from our presidents is that they love their country and they do their best. most of the presidents in my lifetime, in my view, have held up to that criteria. they did their best and they love their country. john f. kennedy certainly fits that criteria, as does lyndon johnson and so many others. but honestly, i
don't know that we can ask for anything else. john f. kennedy looks are different from dwight eisenhower in from franklin roosevelt in from ronald reagan. but all those four presidents are in the top ten of all presidents, but for very, very different reasons. but by god, if you love your country and you give us our very best, things are going to wind up pretty well for the american people and for the world. -- >> i think the microphones are working their way around here. >> -- >> yes, thank you very much for this, it's a wonderful discussion. mark, your books are great, your four part series with lbj is great. it's a wonderful occasion. two questions. number one is, we all learn that character is primary, it's very important. it's very odd that kennedy's character of public service was so exemplary, so inspiring. his
personal character was not so exemplary and so inspiring. there seems to be a total split between the public service that he did and the values that he. and the private values that he had, which were pretty despicable if you look back at it now. second point is, you are absolutely right, the cuban missile crisis was a tremendous triumph. martin sherman has a new book out that is terrific on that. the way kennedy handled it was just terrific. but when you look back at the kennedy presidency, you just wonder what's was lasting about it. what did he do in those years that really lasted? you're in charge of the lbj library foundation and there's so many things, as we are celebrating on the 50th anniversary, that were lasting. every day, we see lbj programs that benefit all of us. it's
hard to think of one from kennedy. >> yeah. two points, thank you, ken. those are both wonderful observations. to your first point, it was interesting to write about this mad men era president in the metoo era. i talk about that. i really put a light up to his character, by virtue of where we stand in 2022. as much as we have advanced as a society in that regard. and you are right, kennedy doesn't look good. the cuban missile crisis, i just want to comment on that. the misconception is that it was a zero sum victory for the united states. that the russians, the very emboldened nikita khrushchev, sends missiles into cuba and we stare on and a blank and withdraw. and that's true. but we didn't realize until years later, there is a
quid pro quo agreement around that. there were missiles in turkey that we had that were dangerously close to the soviet border, posing an existential threat, just as there were about to be or where missiles and cuba, just 90 miles from american shores. so, it is a great moment for kennedy. but we realize much later that it was due to a back channel negotiation that we get out of that peacefully. it's a credit to kennedy, but it is not a zero sum victory. in terms of what is lasting, here's my view on that. again, i mentioned that high tide of liberalism that kennedy creates. it's funny, you look at the legacies of john kennedy and lyndon johnson and so often they are either team kennedy or team johnson. and neither the twain shall meet. they have
incredibly complimentary legacies, in my view. because john f. kennedy gets us thinking beyond ourselves, because he instill such faith in government, lyndon johnson is able to capitalize on that and get through the laws of the great society. which become the foundation of modern america. the civil rights act, for instance, of 1963, which can be proposed in that speech i was just talking about, was largely languishing in the halls of congress when kennedy died. he didn't have the legislative will or the might or both to get it through. lyndon johnson did, and he did that we in so many unfinished things from the kennedy administration. in many cases, lbj made the bigger but john f. kennedy tried to get through medicaid and failed. he tried to get through federal aid to education and failed. all these things were on his desk, but the one thing that kennedy does is get us thinking
about a better america. and lyndon johnson can capitalize on that. >> if i can follow up on one thing. i'm curious, from a historians perspective, the relegation's that we know now about his personal character and his rampant womanizing. does that change how we, as a country, should view his presidency and his leadership? >> the one thing i would say, ken is right that it's despicable behavior in many respects. if you look at the way he treats an intern, there's a book by robert dallek about john f. kennedy, the unfinished presidency, and which he reveals that there was a white house intern to whom, who loses her virginity to john kennedy at the age of 19 in her first week at the white house. he takes her around the country and the world almost as a concubine. it's very difficult to excuse this kind of behavior. but i will say, it didn't affect his ability to
discharge the duties of the presidency. it might have compromised amid some, point but it did not. i think he comes by his womanizing relatively honestly, his father was a rampant womanizer himself. i think, for the kennedys, womanizing was almost a way of keeping score in an odd way. here's john f. kennedy, trying to get the most out of life. those notches on his belt where a part of it in a way, in a weird way, i can't explain it. but it is certainly a deficit of character. i would say, amna, at the time, walter cronkite spoke about the fact if a politician was womanizing or abusing alcohol, it didn't matter if it didn't affect his duties to be a public official. and so, the gloves were off and kennedy knew that, to a certain extent, i think. that there wasn't this great scrutiny by the press corps. of course, that would change markedly later. and should change,
frankly, we should know that about our politicians. >> question? >> we know that khrushchev met kennedy in vienna and i think that the story was, anyway, that he thought that kennedy was no big thing and was probably just a young boy. and he could deal with him. what's finally convinced khrushchev to back off? was it the missiles in turkey or was it that somehow kennedy had shown enough strength that he would back down or respect him? >> john, i begin the book with john f. kennedy talking about a member of the press, riley, and
this goes back to your point on how intimate the relationship was between kennedy and the press. but the book begins with a prologue. it is john f. kennedy, right after going mano a mano with nikita khrushchev at the summit, the superpower summit in vienna. kennedy goes in this glamorous, elegant figure, potentially dashing figure on the world stage. we have these high expectations. and khrushchev goes in thinking that he's very callow and can be exploited. kennedys performance over those two days against the very truculent, very pugnacious nikita khrushchev, leads khrushchev to believe that he is, and i'm quoting khrushchev, too intelligent and too weak. and kennedy knows that khrushchev has this impression. he goes back after these endless two days of meetings with khrushchev to the american embassy in vienna and he talks to scotty weston, who's a reporter from the new york times. it's an off-the-record
conversation in which kennedy concedes that he has been savaged, those are his words, by khrushchev. kennedy. it emboldens khrushchev to make the move in cuba and it's the resolution of that, that conflict between the two that gives khrushchev respect for kennedy for the first time for. the reasons that i've mentioned, the way that khrushchev talked about it in his memoir is that kennedy was clear headed in that moment he, did show grace and equanimity. he did talk to khrushchev albeit through back channels to find peaceful resolution and again he didn't paint himself into a corner and. that made a difference. and after that point, khrushchev's stock goes down in the world, and john f. kennedy's goes up. >> there are so many
fascinating details in this book. i really enjoyed reading it. i really hope everyone gets a chance to read them all, -- i'd be one to respectful of every parties time and i want to give your chance to share any piece of information or historian or get from here that you think people would find interesting before we leave the stage and enjoy the rest of the evening. >> i tell you quick story that i love. it comes from my old friend hugh sidey. kennedy goes, has this wonderful inauguration, the entire world is watching and talked about the soaring eloquence in that moment and then he goes on to the inaugural balls afterwards and he goes to a party and we also the warning at, a call across back in the white house around three in the morning. and because of the presidential bedroom is being renovated, he sleeps in the lincoln bedroom. the next day he's asked, what was it like to sleep in the bed of abraham lincoln and? he said,
i just climbed in and hung on. [laughs] [laughter] and i think that's true for almost any president. i'm going to, thank you so much for conducting the conversation. >> thank you. >> [applause] thank you very much. thank you, what a delight! [applause] >> thank you very much amna and mark for this conversation tonight, and thank you all for joining us here at decatur house, the white house historical association, and for those of you watching by c-span, thank you for your interest in our work and our mission and telling these important stories of white house history. the book is available, mark's available to sign. thank you so much, and have a good. evening [applause]