Books

11.19.13

Jackie Kennedy’s Letter to Khrushchev: My Last Nights in the White House

About a week after JFK was assassinated, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ‘on one of the last nights I will spend in the White House.’ From The Letters of John F. Kennedy.

Washington, December 1, 1963.

Dear Mr. Chairman President,

I would like to thank you for sending Mr. Mikoyan as your representative to my husband’s funeral.

He looked so upset when he came through the line, and I was very moved.

I tried to give him a message for you that day—but as it was such a terrible day for me, I do not know if my words came out as I meant them to.

So now, in one of the last nights I will spend in the White House, in one of the last letters I will write on this paper at the White House, I would like to write you my message.

I send it only because I know how much my husband cared about peace, and how the relation between you and him was central to this care in his mind. He used to quote your words in some of his speeches-”In the next war the survivors will envy the dead.”

You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up. You respected each other and could deal with each other. I know that President Johnson will make every effort to establish the same relationship with you.

jfk-letters-cover
‘The Letters of John F. Kennedy’ edited by Martin W. Sandler. 384 pp. Bloomsbury Press. $30. ()

The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones.

While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint—little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride. If only in the future the big men can continue to make the little ones sit down and talk, before they start to fight.

“You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up.”

I know that President Johnson will continue the policy in which my husband so deeply believed—a policy of control and restraint—and he will need your help.

I send this letter because I know so deeply of the importance of the relationship which existed between you and my husband, and also because of your kindness, and that of Mrs. Khrushcheva in Vienna.

I read that she had tears in her eyes when she left the American Embassy in Moscow, after signing the book of mourning. Please thank her for that.

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Kennedy

Video screenshot

Look back at one of America's most iconic photos, when JFK Jr. saluted at his dad's funeral.