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Book Review for June <3

July…you came out of nowhere. 

Anyone else think summer is traveling at the speed of light??

I almost completed one book the month of June so we will take a peek at it and move along. 

A Lady, First My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome is written by Letitia Baldrige. I had never heard of her, but saw the photo with Jackie O on the front at a library book sale in our village and it went in the bag of must have’s. 

That era of history holds a fascination for me as the funeral for JFK is one of my first foundational childhood memories that linked me to a nation. I remember my paternal grandparents had come for Thanksgiving that year. My parents were not on the same political page as the Kennedy administration, but he was the President and honored in our home no matter his politics. 

The drapes were drawn and we all sat and watched the entire proceedings on our television set. It made an impact on me. That and just about everything to do with the early 60’s culture of America and the world. Movies, music, stars, fashion; all grab my interest immediately. Give me Audrey Hepburn in huge sunglasses and her hair swept up and I am drawn like a moth to flame. 

So I have not been disappointed in this reading as I have followed Letitia’s journey from her early years in Omaha, being the daughter of lawyer and State Legislator, Vassar graduate, post-war employment in two famous embassies, first PR person for the famous Tiffany’s Jewelry store, the White House and beyond. She served David and Evangeline Bruce in Paris and Clare Boothe Luce and her husband Henry in Rome. 

I have learned a lot about the political and social culture of that time frame in both world and American history through the eyes of this woman who broke through glass ceilings without even knowing there was such a thing. 

She would have intimidated the life out of me in real time, but it has been a fun read to see her determination, moxie and adventurous spirit in action on the pages of her book. She saw a lot of the ugly behind the scenes of famous people’s lives, but this is not an exposé written to shock or sully anyone’s reputation. She is honest, but gracious and shares what she learned from her various bosses and mentors. If there is any negative, it is briefly mentioned with no sensationalism and only to point the positive of a person or situation. 

Early on in the book she expresses that it is better to be friends with the wealthy than have wealth. She didn’t earn tons of money in all of her various jobs, but she lived well and benefited from the ones who had to carry the responsibility for great resources. 

Letitia writes with easy to understand descriptions of the places where she served and the systems she had to learn to function within. She also has a lively sense of humor and shares both her wins and some of her embarrassing missteps as she was prone to take on jobs where she had to learn as she navigated a role she was not prepared to fill. 

Here is one one of her quotes I marked and I think it gives a perfect glimpse into her wisdom and insight. She makes this observation after working a short stint in the Psychological Warfare Division of the CIA between her posts in the embassy in Paris and the one in Rome. 

“In peacetime the goal of public relations was to create attitudes favorable to certain companies and their products or services, and to inspire the masses to buy those products or services. Propaganda in wartime is called promotion in peace time.”

A Lady, First; My Life in the Kenndy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome, Letitia Baldridge, Viking, 2001; Pg 83

Think about that for a minute.

Wow.

Promotion in peacetime = Propaganda in wartime. I feel that.

There are so many little gems like this that Letitia shares from her various positions in such a wide range of working in the political and business arenas. Which often mesh, as we all know. 

 I have no idea if you can still purchase this book. Happy to loan to anyone interested in reading, but I would want it returned. This one is a keeper, for sure!

What are you reading this summer? 

Let me know in the comments and I will share with readers who are looking for some good suggestions!

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4 Comments

  1. I just finished reading, mWhat the Nurses Saw by Ken McCarthy, referring to 2020-2023 in the US and Canada. As an RN, I understood and wondered about many things and this book was certainly enlightening. A bit repetitive in some interviews making it quite a slow read but the first hand accounts are valuable and valid. Fully documented with an extensive Appendix. I will recommend it to many.

    I appreciate hearing about your reads, Laura! I, too, wish that I were a faster reader.

    Thanks, BJ

    1. Thank you – our daughter is a NP. This looks like a good one for all of us! I appreciate you sharing. We all love to hear about a recommended book. I also appreciate the feedback that you like the book reviews <3

  2. Politics aside, I think you would enjoy reading “Becoming Madame Secretary” by Stephanie Dray. Frances Perkins served under FDR and made enormous inroads for women in that time period.

    1. I am loving learning more about American history these days – especially from those who lived it! Thank you for the suggestion!

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