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09/08/2019

What does John F. Kennedy have to do with camelot? What is camelot?

QUESTION
What does John F. Kennedy have to do with camelot? What is camelot?
I’m writing a report on John F. Kennedy. My History teacher said that I need to include something about camelot. First of all I don’t even know what camelot is. Second of all, how does it connect to John F. Kennedy? Thanks!

ANSWER
EFFECTS OF KENNEDY AND WHITE’S “CAMELOT” MYTH DISCUSSED

Calling former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy “an iron-
willed and ferocious guardian of her husband’s legacy,” Joyce
Hoffman described the collaboration between Mrs. Kennedy and
journalist Theodore White that gave birth to the “Camelot
myth” in the weeks immediately following the president’s
assassination, and what it has meant to our nation. Professor
of Journalism at Old Dominion University, Ms. Hoffman
discussed her recent book, “Theodore H. White & Journalism as
Illusion”, at a U.Va. Miller Center forum Nov. 28.

Jacqueline Kennedy summoned the Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist to the family compound at Hyannisport only a week
after her husband’s death. Teddy White had become a confidant
of the President during the 1960 campaign, and she implored
him to “rescue” Jack Kennedy from “the bitter old men who
write history.”

As Mrs. Kennedy struggled to find what she considered an
appropriate “classical metaphor” for her husband’s presidency,
Teddy White slowly abandoned his journalistic objectivity and
became a willing collaborator in the creation of a heroic
national myth, according to Ms. Hoffman. In the echoes of a
favorite Broadway musical of the time, Jacqueline Kennedy
found her heroic metaphor and cast the spell of Camelot over
the American people with the help of Mr. White.

As Ms. Hoffman noted, seldom would the collaboration of myth-
seeker and myth-maker ever be quite so unconditional. White’s
essay, just 1,000 words long, became a defining document in
American’s political and cultural life, she said.

The durability of the Camelot myth, even in light of subsequent
revelations about the Kennedy years, remains a tribute to the
vision and determination of the former First Lady. Professor
Hoffman stressed that Jacqueline Kennedy and Teddy White did
not create the Camelot myth simply to aggrandize a fallen
president, but also out of a genuine sense of national need.
Seeing the nation locked in a desperate, dangerous Cold War
struggle with the Soviet Union, Kennedy and White believed
that a heroic national myth would help the U.S. prevail. Mrs.
Kennedy’s strong desire to rename Cape Canaveral after her
husband was evidence of her wish to impart the power of the
Camelot myth to America’s space race with the Soviets, Ms.
Hoffman said.

What the Camelot myth obscured, she explained, was “the
reality that Kennedy won the presidency with one-tenth of one
percent of the vote” and that at the time of the assassination,
his administration was still stained by the Bay of Pigs fiasco
and shaken by the brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Camelot myth was “ultimately harmful to the Kennedy
years,” Ms. Hoffman believes. “The notion that the New Frontier
was some lost golden age certainly robs that period of
balanced judgments.” In later years, Jacqueline Kennedy was
herself trapped by the idyllic memory she had created for her
husband and remarked that the choice of Camelot was
“overwrought,” noted Ms. Hoffman. While sympathetic to the
ideals and determination that motivated both Jacqueline
Kennedy and Teddy White, Ms. Hoffman judges that the Camelot
myth was “too grand an idea for our nation.” http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/texton…