Date of Submission
American Studies; French Studies
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
This project is an exploration into John and Jackie Kennedy’s 1961 trip to Paris, France, only four months after the former was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. In discussing this state visit, scholars often analyze it through a political lens—specifically, the gravity of the issues a novice President Kennedy (1917–1963) and an avuncular President de Gaulle (1890–1969) discussed tête-à-tête, and the visit’s role as a stepping stone to Kennedy’s weighty conversation with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna days later. Yet, outside of the conference room at the Élysée, cultural moments and gestures throughout the sojourn offer insights into the mindsets of the visit’s various key players, suggesting that the cultural aspect of the visit was just as consequential as the political aspect.
This project chronicles the Kennedys’ visit via three analyses: firstly, the role of gifts and mementos of goodwill. How did the presidents’ official gifts to one another suggest how they may have been thinking about the visit, and the presence of a diplomatic tension that needed to be mended? I then bring my reader to an analysis of the role of Jacqueline Kennedy (1929–1994), and how she shaped President de Gaulle’s opinion of her husband through her youthfulness, glitz, and charm. Finally, I analyze the far-reaching impact of Mrs. Kennedy beyond President de Gaulle, and how she effectively “came into her own” as first lady while concurrently demonstrating influence beyond enchanting the French president.
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Toth, Maxwell Riley, "A Dazzling Détente: Exploring the Cultural Facets of the Kennedys’ 1961 Visit to Paris and the Instrumental Role of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy" (2022). Senior Projects Spring 2022. 205.
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