President John F. Kennedy Says He’s Tempted to Write About Thomas Jefferson but His Current Job Takes Up All His Time

June 5, 1962

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President John F. Kennedy Says He’s Tempted to Write About Thomas Jefferson but His Current Job Takes Up All His Time
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 660

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      Background

      It makes sense. Before he was President, or Senator, or Congressman, or war hero, Jack Kennedy was a journalist with a special interest in American history. That he write a book, then, about Thomas Jefferson, must have seemed a likely proposition – to, say, a New York publisher with too much time on his hands. Time, though, was what President Kennedy didn’t have, and says so here: his “present job” takes up all of it, and consequently, he replies, and  he must resist the temptation to write about Jefferson.

      Even though there have been several admirable works on Thomas Jefferson I quite agree with you that his varied contributions to American life are not as fully known as they should be. If I were not otherwise engaged I would be tempted to consider your proposal. My present job, however, takes all of my time so I must refuse.

      Kennedy did find time, however, to famously salute the third President. In a famous toast at a White House dinner in honor of 49 Nobel Prize winners, Kennedy said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

      President Kennedy, of course, died in office, assassinated: he never had the chance to write for Doubleday, or anyone else. But his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, took a job there, as an editor, in 1978, and worked at the storied firm until her death.


      Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, June 5, 1962. To Ken McCormick at Doubleday and Co. in New York.
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      THE WHITE HOUSE
      WASHINGTON

      June 5, 1962

      Dear Mr. McCormick:

      Many thanks for your kind letter and for your interesting suggestion in regard to Thomas Jefferson.

      Even though there have been several admirable works on Thomas Jefferson I quite agree with you that his varied contributions to American life are not as fully known as they should be. If I were not otherwise engaged I would be tempted to consider your proposal. My present job, however, takes all of my time so I must refuse.

      Sincerely,

      JOHN KENNEDY

      Ken McMormick
      Editor in Chief
      Doubleday & Company, Inc.
      575 Madison Avenue
      New York 22, N. Y.