Once you can express yourself, you can tell the world what you want from it. . . All the changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words.
― Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Today would have been Jackie Kennedy’s 88th birthday. There’s so much we learned from this remarkable woman and her amazing life that it’s hard to even know where to begin in recognizing her for all of her accomplishments. Kennedy was best known for being a student, editor, brave wife, mother, cultural guru, and style icon (if you have never tried to dress like Jackie Kennedy, then we clearly have different taste).
“When a woman is glamorous, it often stops there. With Jackie, it stopped with her big sunglasses and jet-setting image. But there were a lot of brains under that pillbox hat,” said Tina Santi Flaherty, author of What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons From the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. “Jackie laid out a remarkable road map for achievement. And if any one of us were to follow some of the things that she did, we could undoubtedly improve our own lives.” While the list of things we admire about the former First Lady could go on and on forever, here are few that all of us can strive to live out in our own day to day lives.
She Wanted to Enrich Everyone’s Lives
Jackie was a fan of anything cultural. “Before Jackie, America wasn’t thought of as particularly sophisticated in literature, or poetry, or music, or art. We had it all along. We just had no one to showcase it. But Jackie did those magical White House evenings that let the world know America didn’t have to take second place to anyone,” Flaherty said. According to The Miller Center, Jackie was also supportive of a variety of associations, such as the American Association of Maternal and Infant Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Girl Scouts.
She Knew How to Make People Feel Important
According to Flaherty, Jackie was also an expert at something called the “lighthouse look.” “Jackie perfected the lighthouse look,” Faherty said. “She had the ability to not only lock eyes with you, she also had the ability to lock into your mind.”
She Was an Avid Reader
Her love of reading led her to become an editor, and she also spearheaded a campaign to boost the offerings of the White House Library when during her time as First Lady. She wanted the library to possess the most important pieces of American literature and history, so she asked a committee of scholars to choose 1500 significant works to ensure that the library had the most well-rounded collection possible. Then she gave all Americans access by making the list public.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a style icon. Enough said. However, for her it was always about more than just looking good. It was truly the love and respect of fashion as an art. “Most Americans had a sort of knee-jerk reaction, fashion was elitist, decadent,” Valerie Steele, fashion historian and director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told ABC News. “What she did was give a totally positive spin to fashion.”
She Launched a Career in Her 40s
Following the death of her husband Aristotle Onassis in 1975, she became an editor, first at Viking Press, then at Doubleday. The Vassar-educated, avid reader enjoyed being an editor. Some were slightly confused as to why this very rich woman wanted to work a 9-to-5 job, but Onassis continued to do it despite questioning. She once said, “If you produce one book, you will have done something wonderful in your life.” By the time of her death in 1994, Jackie had helped edit nearly 100 books. Biographer David Stenn wrote, “Jackie Onassis cultivated authors, not subjects. She nurtured, and thought long-haul.”
She Wrote Great Letters
Though there was no email back then, Jackie should still be commended for perfecting the art of letter writing. She wrote beautiful thank-you notes, but also letters that moved people to action. According to Inkhouse.net, in 1987, in her campaign to block developer Mort Zuckerman from building an obstructive building in Columbus Circle in New York, she beautifully wrote, “They’re stealing our sky!”
Out of all of Jackie Kennedy’s contributions to society, which one has impacted you the most? Let us know in comments! Then ask Levo mentor Kate White how Jackie has influenced her life and career.
Photo: Morgan Collection/Getty Images