John F. Kennedy photo

Interview with Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy by Henry Fonda, CBS-TV

November 02, 1960

Participants: Mrs. John F. Kennedy in Washington; Senator John F. Kennedy in Los Angeles; Mr. Henry Fonda in New York.

ANNOUNCER (minimum 10-second disclaimer). The following broadcast is a program featuring Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, and Henry Fonda. Presented in behalf of John F. Kennedy for President, and sponsored by Citizens for Kennedy-Johnson.

And now, Mr. Fonda.

HENRY FONDA. Hello. I'm in New York. In a moment we'll meet Mrs. Kennedy in Washington, and later Senator Kennedy will join us from out in Los Angeles.

Mrs. Kennedy's told me we're going to see some movies of the family and look at a few pages of the Kennedy family album. Later Mrs. Kennedy will be asking the Senator about those issues in the election that women all over the country have told her are most important to them. Originally, we'd all hoped to be together, but the Senator's campaigning in California; Mrs. Kennedy's expected baby keeps her home in Washington; and I'm here in New York rehearsing for a new play. And here's Mrs. Kennedy in Washington now.

Hello, Mrs. Kennedy

Mrs. KENNEDY. Hello, Mr. Fonda. You're very nice to take the time to be with us today.

FONDA. Oh, this is my pleasure. The word from the control room is that it will be a few minutes before we can make contact with Los Angeles. What about your scrapbook and the movies?

Mrs. KENNEDY. It's really a little bit of everything. Some photographs and film, many of which I've taken myself over the past 7 years. I thought people might enjoy seeing them.

But only for a few minutes. It would take hours, so some of the best things have been put together on film.

(Film begins)

FONDA. That looks like a good start. Did you ever imagine then what was going to be happening now?

Mrs. KENNEDY. No, I never did; I think it's probably just as well. We were married in September 1953 and in those 7 years so much has happened. Jack was in his first term in the Senate then.

FONDA. Oh, that's your Washington home. How beautiful. Did you ever find out how old it is?

Mrs. KENNEDY. No, it's ancient and leans and all the stairs are creaky and it leans to one side. I just know it's old enough for Jack; he loves old things.

FONDA. Wonderful example of Federal architecture.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Oh, you're very nice. Here's Jack having breakfast with Caroline who's not the most restful breakfast companion.

And here we are reading.

FONDA. I don't imagine the Senator does much reading these days?

Mrs. KENNEDY. He's too busy talking, but his idea of a perfect evening still is to stay home and read. Before we were married, whenever he gave me a present it was usually a book. History. Biography. Caroline Bouvier Kennedy - aged 18 months.

FONDA. Formal attire.

Mrs. KENNEDY. That's when she was christened, when she was 3 weeks old. Four months here.

FONDA. Ah! That's darling! The Senator performing a little additional duty?

Mrs. KENNEDY. Yes, he looks awfully uncomfortable, doesn't he?...This one's my favorite. It seems as if she's walking away from being a baby and into being a grownup.

...A typical weekend scene in our backyard. Left to right, Jack; his brother-in-law, Steve Smith; his friend and adviser, Ted Sorenson.

FONDA. Plus advisers Caroline and Jacqueline Kennedy

Mrs. KENNEDY. Caroline knows enough to leave when men are talking business. She loves the backyard and her plastic pool. It gets so hot here in the summer and Jack never gets a summer vacation. Congress doesn't adjourn until September and by the time he's through fence-mending in Massachusetts, we usually don't get up to Hyannisport 'til fall.

...But there are weekends...

Here's Caroline with her cousin Steven Smith.

FONDA. Is that the favorite cousin?

Mrs. KENNEDY. I won't tell, but he's out in front. There were 13 cousins there last year. Caroline goes out further in the ocean with her father.

That's Jack's old boat. He had it for 30 years. Named it the Victura - "About to Conquer." I think he was proud of his high school Latin.

FONDA. It's really a sea-going family . . . Jackie, do you do much painting now?

Mrs. KENNEDY. Just for fun, a little bit, Caroline loves to mix the paints. She makes a terrible mess with them.

FONDA (Laughter). I know you were more interested in writing once!

Mrs. KENNEDY. That's right. When I first met Jack, about a year before we were married, I was working for the Washington Times Herald. I was their Inquiring Photographer

FONDA. As a matter of fact I heard you met the Senator in the line of duty.

Mrs. KENNEDY. That's a marvelous story but I can't fool you. I met him at the home of friends in Georgetown who were really earnestly matchmaking and for once it worked . . .

Jack on his way to the Senate.

FONDA. Don't tell me you answer all your own mail?

Mrs. KENNEDY. As much as I can myself, but you know there's been so much lately, so I do need some help.

FONDA. And what's this.?

Mrs. KENNEDY. This is a Washington foundling home. I spend some of my days there regularly. Jack's family has felt a strong commitment to children's charities, so after I was married I became very interested in that work, too.

Quick lunch in a drug store on my way to hear Jack speak in the Senate .

The Senate hall.

FONDA. Don't tell me you're the kind of wife who goes to her husband's office a lot?

Mrs. KENNEDY. Not that office. It's too hectic, but I did do some research there for some of his Senate speeches and at home. In fact he had me working for him before we were married. The speech on Indochina, because so much of the source material was in French. I did the same for his Algerian speech.

FONDA. Did you discuss that speech when you met the general?

Mrs. KENNEDY. No, I would leave that up to Jack. But I often do translate for him.

This was a big night when Jack was reelected Senator in 1958. That's his brother Ted with us.

FONDA. I was in Europe during that campaign, but I heard all over how active you were.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Well, it was a hectic campaign and it was followed by ones that were even more so. This time I haven't been able to do much really because I'm expecting the baby. But since we were married I've campaigned with him in 46 States and I traveled with him in the primaries early this year but I couldn't go to the convention.

Meeting the press the day after.

The press teas this fall.

Meeting with "Women of the New Frontier."

And the ticker tape parade 2 weeks ago in New York.

FONDA. You seem to be helping pretty well in this campaign considering. I know about this, your triumph - a speech in Italian on Columbus Day in New York and in Spanish to the Puerto Ricans.

I'm sure that's the Senator coming home from the convention.

Mrs. KENNEDY. No, it's just one of my favorite pictures and I wanted it to be the last one.

(Film ends)

FONDA. Thank you, Mrs. Kennedy. I feel almost like a member of the family.

And, now, a surprise. You've shown us some of your movies, now we want to show you some of ours. We hunted around for these for the last few days, and we finally located them this morning. I call this: "The Triumph of Jacqueline Kennedy, or My Favorite Linguist."

(Sound on film of Mrs. Kennedy speaking Italian.)

FONDA. Grazie, grazie, Signora.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Prego, Signore Fonda.

FONDA. Mrs. Kennedy, besides traveling with the Senator, and press teas, and "Women of the New Frontier," I know you've been involved in even other elements of the campaign.

What about your "Calling for Kennedy" drives? I know how important that project has been to you and how much you've been concerned with it.

Mrs. KENNEDY. I felt it was important to find out what issues in this election are of the most significance to women. And those are the things I want to talk to Jack about. That's why "Calling for Kennedy" was organized. We got in touch with women volunteers all over the country, and they went out with these forms [she shows stack of them] and armed with pencils and paper, they rang door-bells and really searched out the problems that women are most concerned with. The forms were sent to us here in Washington.

FONDA. That sounds like quite a problem in logistics. How was all that organized?

Mrs. KENNEDY. The first thing I did was get on the telephone and talk to volunteers across the country

FONDA. Oh, is that when the famous phone call took place? When you talked to 11 ladies in 11 different States all at once.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Yes. I was at a meeting of precinct workers in northern Virginia and a telephone call was put through to start the campaign .

("Calling for Kennedy" film begins)

Mrs. KENNEDY. Hello. Good morning, this is Jacqueline Kennedy. I'm calling you from the 10th Congressional District in Arlington, Va. Can you hear me? Well, I'll tell you. I'd like to first say good morning to all of you - to Mrs. Robert Winalski in Connecticut. Are you there? To Mrs. James Haney in New Jersey. Oh, good! To Mrs. Anne Bliss in Maryland. To Mrs. W. N. Lawley in North Carolina. Are you there? Good morning. To Mrs. V. E. Levine in New York. Oh, good. Wonderful. To Mrs. Alfreida Arden in Indiana. Are you there? To Mrs. Kay Conant in Illinois. Good morning. To Mrs. Lloyd Ives in Michigan. Oh, thank you so much. To Mrs. Arthur Miller in Texas. Oh, you sound much closer than that. To Mrs. M. Stapleton, Jr., in Colorado. Good morning. And to Mrs. Goldie Kennedy in California. Good - Oh, it's very early there. I'm sorry. Would any of you have any questions? Or last-minute messages you'd like to give? That's great, Mrs. Winalski. She has 92 clubs all ready to start out. Oh, thank you, Vickie. That's Vickie Levine in Binghamton, N.Y., who has 75 people there and 75 more who're going to start all over again tonight. Good. I hope you all have good weather, wherever you are.

I want to thank you all for being there and assembling so many people to start out "Calling for Kennedy" week, which helps finances anew, and I know you'll go into the homes of all these women and find out the issues which concern them the most, which I will report to my husband.

(Film ends)

FONDA. All those forms came in to you? Are they the results of the phone calls we just saw?

Mrs. KENNEDY. Yes; and they all tell the same story. Everywhere, peace is uppermost in women's minds. They say that if we can't keep the peace, then the other issues aren't important. Not one woman called upon, put the budget ahead of peace.

FONDA. Mrs. Kennedy, they tell me they have Senator Kennedy in Los Angeles now.

KENNEDY. Hello, Jackie. Hello, Mr. Fonda.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Hello, Jack. How is it in California?

KENNEDY. Well, we've had a very good trip out here. Going to leave again tonight. Travel to 16 States in the next 7 days, then come back to Massachusetts on Monday night. We'll meet you and Caroline on Tuesday morning, when all this long running around the country comes to an end on election day, November 8. I must say I'll be glad when it does finally come to an end; we'll be glad to see you both again.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Hundreds of the "Calling for Kennedy" forms have come in. And I know women around the country are anxious to have you know how they feel. Almost without exception, every form lists peace as the most important issue. Right here on top is a comment from Mrs. Charles Hazlett of Fairfax, Va. She says we need a foreign policy which has foresight, not crisis-to-crisis planning. What can you tell Mrs. Hazlett, Jack?

KENNEDY. Well, I think it is the great issue that we all face as Americans in the 1960's. How can we keep the peace, and how can we protect our security? I don't think any American wants to go through another war. And I must say that, after having been through World War II, and spending 2 mon- 2 years, it turned out in the hospital, after the war, and then, of course, losing my older brother, I don't think anyone wants to see that happen again.

So, if I'm elected President, we're going to work with all our energy, all of our effort, to maintain the peace. I think we're going to have to do better than we're now doing. I've been talking a good deal in this campaign about national prestige, what people think of us abroad. That isn't the question of whether we're popular or not. What it does mean is whether people will follow us, whether the free world will accept our leadership, whether they will stand with us.

If they ever get the idea that the "balance of power" is moving against us, that we're not a strong, and vital and progressive people, then we've lost a great deal and we've endangered the peace. I think we have to be strong. I think we have to build a strong and vital society here. I think we have to identify ourself with the needs of people around the world - their fight against poverty and disease and illiteracy. When we had the trouble in the Congo in June, we offered more scholarships to the Congo in 1 day than we had given to all of Africa in the year before, as if you could turn out an educated man or woman overnight. We have to have thoughtful people, working for us in our own country and around the world, representing the United States - a strong vital country which stands for freedom, which stands for peace, which stands for security, which identifies itself with people who want to be free. I believe in that way the United States can keep the peace and be secure.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Second in importance, judging from these, is the problems of educating our children. Mrs. William Berg of Binghamton, N.Y., says that the tax resources of the Federal Government should be made available to our educational system. A number of women also have asked for Federal aid for college scholarships. I know you have strong feelings about these issues.

KENNEDY. Well, I believe that education is fundamental and basic. This country - in fact, I come from a section of the United States which started the first public school. We can't maintain a free society, which depends upon the good judgment and the sense of restraint of the citizens, unless we have well-educated citizens everyplace. We want every boy and girl of talent to have a chance to develop that talent. Thirty-five percent of our brightest boys and girls today never get to college, who graduate from high school.

Then, a good many who go to college aren't abe to finish because they can't keep themselves in school. We want good teachers, well paid. We want colleges and dormitories which can take the tremendous number of young men and women who are going to pour into those colleges and dormitories in the next 10 years. In the next 10 years, we're going to have twice as many boys and girls applying for college as we do today. I believe in Federal aid to education. I believe in working to provide the best educational system that we can. I believe in loans to colleges so that they can build those dormitories. And also scholarships for our brightest boys and girls and loans for the others so that they can get through school. Ten years ago, we turned out twice as many scientists and engineers as the Russians; now, they turn out twice as many as we do. And I know boys and girls of ability who finish high school, even if they get a scholarship, because they have to work to keep their family going, they never get through school. I want everyone who has talent and ability and wants to learn to have that chance. I want the United States to have the best educated citizens in the world. That's the way we maintain democracy; that's the way we keep our freedom; that's the way we meet our responsibilities - schools, colleges, well-trained teachers who are decently paid. And I think, on this issue, the Republicans and Mr. Nixon and I differ. We support action, and I think we need action in the 1960's in this field as well as in others.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Another issue which affects almost every family is medical care for the aged. Many of these comments reveal that mothers of families are torn between the financial demands of educating their children and meeting the medical bills of their aging parents. There is also the question of parents who are unable to rely on any support from their children. Mrs. Marie Love of Oceanside, Calif., is 65 years old. She's concerned about her husband's illness; in fact, the medicine alone costs $30 a month. One of the reasons Mrs. Love is supporting you, Jack, is because she feels your approach to medical aid would help them. How do you feel about this issue?

KENNEDY. Well, the problem that Mrs. Love faces is shared by a great many millions of Americans. The average social security check for 16 million Americans over the age of 65 is about $72 a month. And there are others - they include millions who don't have any - even social security. Now, if they get sick, if the husband gets sick or the wife gets sick, maybe sick for 3 or 4 months, they run up doctors' bills and medical bills in the hundreds of dollars, they have to rely on their savings or they have to rely on their children, and sometimes their children are already hard pressed to maintain their own families. What we suggest is that medical care for the aged be tied to social security, every working American contribute, and it's little less than 3 cents a day during their working years. Then when they're retired, they can draw on this fund and they can sustain themselves and meet their responsibilities. Unfortunately, the bill which was passed and signed by the President provides that, before any older person can get any medical care, they have to exhaust their savings; they have to sign a petition that they're medically indigent, a "pauper's oath," and their children would have to do it, too; exhaust their savings, which might represent all they had, before they could go down and get public assistance. I think our way is much better. It's in accordance with the social security system, which has worked for 25 years. It's more responsible, gives older people a chance to meet their own obligations and look to the future with security. Those citizens who are not on social security - their problems can be met in this area, too. I believe that the next Congress and the next President have to work for this program. I think it's important. I think these Americans are entitled to live out their life in dignity. Mrs. Love has talked about one of the most important problems now facing us.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Many of the women called on spoke of the high cost of living, mounting grocery bills, and the cost of children's clothing. The bare essentials seem to cost more and more all the time. Here I have one from Mrs. Harold Kautner of Chicago who thinks it's most important that the economy be stimulated. She wants to know how you are going to go about it.

KENNEDY. Well, the steady increase in the cost of living, which, over the last 8 years, has amounted to about 22 percent, really makes it very hard for housewives today to balance their budget. Rents have gone up in some places more than that. Medical care, nearly 35 percent. So there has been a steady increase in the cost of living for every American. Education costs more than it cost 8 years ago. The property tax on many homes costs more. If you buy a $10,000 home with a 30-year mortgage, you pay about $3,000 more than you did 8 years ago, just because interest rates are higher. I don't believe that this country can continue to maintain its position unless we have a progressive and forward-looking economy, an economy that permits people to earn enough to sustain themselves. Some of these increases are not due to any unfairness. The farmer, for example, really isn't getting very much out of that loaf of bread that you might pay 25 or 26 cents for. He gets about 2 cents. The shirt which I have on probably costs almost as much to launder as it does - the farmer gets in the way of cotton. But, across the board, there has been a steady increase in the cost of living, and it's been partly due to this administration's policy which has provided high interest rates in a very inflexible economy. I believe the next administration and the next President must stimulate our economic growth, provide employment for our people, provide this country's facilities be in full use. Today, we are using only 50 percent of our steel capacity - a hundred thousand steelworkers out of work. That keeps costs high. Competitive economy, going full blast, our people working - that's the way to keep the cost of living in balance with wages. That's the way to move this country ahead. That's the way to protect the interests of our people, and that's the program we're committed to.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Before we finish, Jack, I still want to speak about peace again and how important it is to the women of this country. Mrs. Irene Covall of Dallas, Tex., says that we must have peace at all costs, except, of course, at the cost of freedom. I agree, and I also feel very strongly that we must set a good example of democracy at home if we are to be the leaders of the free world and enjoy the friendship and respect of the people. Many women are concerned with the failure of disarmament negotiations. Mrs. Angela Bambacci of Baltimore, Md., asks: "Can't we accomplish something concrete about disarmament?"

KENNEDY. Well, it is, Jackie, of course, the great problem. And I really don't think that we've made enough progress, for example, in the area of disarmament in the last years. We've only had about 100 people working in the entire Federal Government on the subject of disarmament, the subject of nuclear testing. That's a terribly important subject. It involves the lives and security of us all. I believe that we should set up an arms research institute - a peace institute - in the National Government, which will work as hard on the subject of disarmament, work as hard on the subject of peace, as our Defense Establishment does to protect us. We need to be strong, but we also need to be working toward peace. Secondly, we ought to try to recognize that these are very changing times in the world. Eight years ago there was no outer space, and now the Soviets have beaten us to outer space. We're going to have to do better there. Eight years ago Africa was completely controlled by colonial powers. Now, one-quarter of all the independent nations of the world will be African, and yet we've almost ignored that place. In 1957, for example, we had more people in our embassies in Western Germany - one country - than we had in all of Africa. We had more students coming from abroad to study in the United States 10 years ago than we do today. The Soviet Union has 10 times as many broadcasts in Spanish to Latin America as we do.

We have no program, for example, to Cuba in radio or TV to tell the people of Cuba that we still are their friends, that we want them to be free. These are the things that we have to do to try to build a strong country here, to try to build a progressive and forward-looking country that's meeting its problems, to try to find some way to distribute our food. Here we have $9 billion worth of food stored away - some of it rotting - and the world is hungry. This is a great asset to us. The Lord's been good to the United States, and we should find some way to provide food for all the children that are hungry. In 1954 a good many children in central Africa had a bad disease from which about half of them died. They could have been saved by one glass of milk a day. We had a lot of milk stored away and you know we let it be fed to hogs; none of that went to Africa. We can't afford those mistakes in the future. We have to be compassionate, identify ourselves with those people, move ahead here at home, show them what we can do, stand for peace, be firm, be decisive, but always indicate that our desire is to hold out a helping hand around the world, that we're going to stand firm in the future, that we stand for peace. I think that we can do it and I think we must do it. I've seen enough of war and so has America, to know that peace is our objective. The Bible said: "Blessed are the peacemakers," and that's what we must be in the 1960's.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Thank you, Jack. Other questions came in for you, but these seemed to be the vital ones. When will we see you again?

KENNEDY; Well, in 1 week. Tuesday morning in Boston, then we'll vote, and then we'll go home and wait to see what happens. I'll look forward, after having been on the - traveling around the country into nearly every part of the United States, in the last 3 months since August, I'll look forward to being home. So I will see you on Tuesday. In the meanwhile, as I said, I'll be going into 17 States, so we'll be working all the time. But we'll see you both Tuesday, November 8, which is election day, and which is for me, the end of the trail. It may be the beginning, but we'll have to wait and see.

Mrs. KENNEDY. Goodby, Jack. Before saying goodby to all of you today, I want to thank the many thousands of women volunteers who have helped in the campaign. I hope you will be able to keep up your good work until the last voter gets to the polls next Tuesday. Goodby, Mr. Fonda, and thank you for taking the time to visit with us today.

FONDA. Goodby, Senator. Goodby, Mrs. Kennedy. I hope you enjoyed being with the Kennedys as much as I did - Caroline's kittens and all the rest of it. I think they're a fine family, but I'm pretty partial. Good afternoon.

ANNOUNCER (minimum 10-second disclaimer). This broadcast has been prerecorded and edited and has been presented in the interest of John F. Kennedy for President. Sponsored by Citizens for Kennedy-Johnson.

John F. Kennedy, Interview with Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy by Henry Fonda, CBS-TV Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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