"It's wonderful for me to have these recordings because they give me a sense of him at work, and I think all kids wonder what their parents do all day long."
That was Caroline Kennedy in a recent broadcast of Weekend Edition on NPR. And that's an understatement on her part, because the recordings she was referring to are the tapes that one of her parents, President John F. Kennedy, made inside the Oval Office and the White House Cabinet Room beginning after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
A selection of those recordings — which are held by the Kennedy Library and drawn from more than 260 hours of phone calls, office visits, Dictaphone messages, and cabinet meetings — have now been published under the title Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy (Hyperion Books). The book, which comes with two 75-minute CDs, was edited by historian Ted Widmer, who provides the introduction and accompanying text. Caroline Kennedy wrote the foreword.
The recordings (Kennedy himself had the devices installed) cover critical political events both national and international, domestic issues, and advice from Kennedy's presidential predecessors, but they don't stop there. Listen in too to the voices of JFK Jr. and Caroline Kennedy herself.
But when asked on Weekend Edition if she had heard the full run of tapes, Caroline Kennedy admitted that, though she's certainly spent time with them, she's more concerned that her children learn from them:
"It gives a sense of who he was — informally, formally, at work, kidding around. They felt [the recordings] really helped to connect them to their grandfather."
Memphians have a chance to connect with Caroline Kennedy when she visits the Booksellers at Laurelwood this week to discuss and sign Listening In. No personalized autographs, please.
Caroline Kennedy discussing and signing "Listening In," The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Wednesday, October 10th, 6 p.m. Book purchase and line ticket required. Pre-sale vouchers available now. For more information, call the store at 683-9801 or go to thebooksellersatlaurelwood.com.