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Your turn, NH -- Kate Pemberton: What a First Lady taught me about being a woman

July 13. 2014 9:10PM

TO THE PUBLIC, she is just Jackie. She is my role model. The public sees the thick brown hair, the wide set eyes and the slender figure. Behind the curtain called Camelot, I see unforgettable charm and talent she used to contribute to this country. I see beauty in her appearance, but I pay more attention to her inner beauty.

She is my role model because she put others before herself. “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think anything else you do matters,” Jackie once said. She is my role model because she taught me to value brains over beauty and to not be afraid of being myself. I have finally found someone else who appreciates literature, art and history as much as I do.

When I think of women popular in the 1960s, I do not think of the voluptuous platinum blonde actress, I think of her.

She is my role model because she is a trooper. Having to deal with unfaithful husbands, rambunctious sisters-in-law and stepchildren that despised her, she stuck with her family until the end. She was the only one who could cope with unreal expectations from the public with style. Who she was and what she did inspires me to be just like her, and I know my love for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will always be apart of me.

She will always be a part of the earth, and I see her everywhere. In East Hampton, I see little Jackie Bouvier clutching a blue ribbon in one hand, her pony’s leash in the other. I see the cocky smirk, filled with pride, plastered on her face. In Newport, I see the debutante of the year beaming as she glided down the grand staircase of Hammersmith Farm in a virginal white gown. In Georgetown, I see Jacqueline Bouvier snapping photographs for The Washington Times-Herald. I see Jacqueline Kennedy tossing her bouquet of gardenias and orchids to her female friends and family members. She was still standing on the stairs of Hammersmith Farm in a virginal white gown, but this time she had just stolen the heart of one of the nation’s most eligible bachelors.

In a 1960 photograph, I see Jacqueline Kennedy on the beach near the Kennedy Compound. Hair blowing in the wind and hands resting over her baby bump, she is thinking about how her life would change drastically. In the first lady, I see the woman who brought a new sense of youth and style to the White House. Women in pearls and pillbox hats were everywhere! Today, I wear my pearl necklace like a medal of honor.

On November 22, 1963, I see Jackie Kennedy, drenched in her husband’s blood, reaching for a piece of his shattered skull. Days later, I see the widow of John F. Kennedy, with her two children clinging onto her hands, setting a stoic tone for the fallen President’s funeral. In a small church in Skorpios, I see the woman who had shocked the world by marrying Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

In New York City, I see dozens of photographers flood 1040 Fifth Avenue, dying for a glimpse of New York’s queen, Jackie O. Oversized sunglasses worn to mask her emotions replaced her famous pastel frocks and pillbox hats that symbolized her eternal elegance. When she died in 1994, the world mourned her.

In the small French town where her great-great grandfather earned his keep as a cabinetmaker, the flags flew at half-staff. At the Kennedy mansion in Palm Beach, a red hibiscus flower danced in the breeze. A woman on a bike pedaled to the sophisticated entrance of 1040 Fifth Avenue and placed a bouquet of red roses on the ground. When I listen to my collection of her audiotapes, I hear that alluring breathy voice, and I am at ease. When I walk down Fifth Avenue, I see the elaborate entrance to her penthouse, and I am reminded of how elegant she was.

When I visit her grave at Arlington National Cemetery, the eternal flame does not only stand for President Kennedy, it shows that her spirit will never be forgotten. When I finish a biography about her, even though I know everything there is to know about her, I instantly grab another one because I want to read her enticing story forever. When I simply think about this extraordinary woman that so affected the world, even if it is for just a split second, I am proud.

Kate Pemberton is a rising eight-grader in Bedford.


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