The White House on TV
With her project near completion, Mrs. Kennedy agreed to conduct a televised tour of the Executive Mansion for CBS Television on February 14, 1962. A record audience of 56 million viewers tuned in to hear the first lady as she guided them through the White House and its newly restored rooms. The White House, she said, was not only a place for the president to work and live, but also as a destination for every American who visited Washington, D.C., a showcase for art and culture, and a place of national pride.
The tour was so well received that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Mrs. Kennedy an honorary Emmy Award for her achievement.
Mrs. Kennedy's interests in historic preservation went beyond the White House walls. She asked her friend, Mrs. Paul Mellon, to redesign the president's Rose Garden. She envisioned the garden as a natural sanctuary and retreat just outside the Oval Office and an ideal space for greeting special visitors and large groups.
In 1962, Mrs. Kennedy learned that the historic homes that lined Lafayette Square across the street from the White House were scheduled for demolition to make room for large government office buildings. She personally intervened and commissioned a new plan that preserved the historical identity of the famous square. The period townhomes were sheathed in red brick and the new office buildings placed behind them.
Mrs. Kennedy also advocated the restoration of Pennsylvania Avenue, the main thoroughfare that connected the White House to Capitol Hill, and supported creation of a national cultural complex, which eventually became the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C.
Her interest in preservation extended beyond the United States and included her involvement in the rescue of the ancient Egyptian temples at Abu Simbel, which were threatened by the floodwaters created by the Aswan Dam. Her enthusiasm for historical preservation contributed to its growing influence throughout the nation and enhanced Americans' understanding and appreciation of their heritage.
A Champion of the Arts
Mrs. Kennedy was also a patriot. Like President Kennedy, she believed that American civilization had come of age. Together they celebrated American arts and letters and encouraged Americans to take pride in their artistic, as well as their political, heritage. They used diplomatic occasions at home and abroad to express core national values; to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement; and to enhance the role of the arts in national life.
As first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy planned elegant state occasions, transforming the White House into a showcase for cultural and intellectual achievement. Authors, scientists, artists, musicians and actors mingled with politicians, diplomats, and statesmen. In the East Room, she had a portable stage built for musical and dramatic performances, including a series of concerts for young people. Through these activities and others, Mrs. Kennedy encouraged a new public regard for the arts. In the world of fashion, Mrs. Kennedy became a trendsetter. Her taste influenced designers, magazines, newspapers, and the public.