Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jackie's quote

Minsk, Belarus
Thursday, September 15, 2011

In the midst of an engagement in a country which was the subject of an intense Op-Ed in today's New York Times, a piece which gives meaning and definition to the challenges faced here and yet of the value and impact of cultural diplomacy as perhaps the only tool of engagement possible a parallel piece in today's Washington Post reminded me of the power of culture in a different way, and from a different time.

Jacqueline Kennedy (and later Onassis) echoed the meaning, and potency, of an Administration which, unlike virtually every other one to succeed it in the US, recognized that art, too, is a tool of society, of diplomacy and of a country of enlightenment. On the fiftieth anniversary year of the inaugural of John Kennedy, in a country far, far from home on so many ways, a few of her words seemed worth sharing.

The restoration (of the White House) may be emblematic of Jackie’s best and greatest legacy, much more lasting than her sense of style, her pillbox hats and her breathy adoration of her beau. Her understanding of culture — and the power of culture — may have left the country something larger. Jack and Jackie both loved reading about great civilizations, she says at one point in the tapes. She believed that the cultural power of civilizations was more important than political power or military power in the lasting influence of those civilizations.

In her 20s, she was once asked what her ideal job might be.

“Art Director of the 20th century,” she said.

She just may have gotten her wish.

--from "The Root DC" on September 14, 2011

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