02. April 2013 · Comments Off on Reviewing Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy And Its Aftermath by Mimi Alford · Categories: Uncategorized

Once upon a secret: My affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath by Mimi Alford is a book that in many ways relayed to me the great cultural changes that have taken place in our society since the early 1960s.  Alford was a nineteen year old from New Jersey who interned at the White House starting in the summer of 1962 and became involved in a nearly 18 month affair with the President. The affair started with visits to the White House swimming pool during her internship and contact continued after Alford returned to school. The President would call her dorm under the fictitious name of Michael Carter. Intrigued readers will want to read the book to learn about the details as to how the affair was carried out.

Making public an affair with the President would have been catastrophically damaging to one’s reputation in the 1960s. Alford discusses keeping the relationship secret for a great deal of her life until historian Robert Dallek’s book on President Kennedy was published in 2003 which alluded to the affair. It was at that point that Alford’s secret could not be kept any longer. I can’t help but feeling that in today’s world (post Monica Lewinsky) this revelation would be almost passé. Given that we live in a more accepting society than the one in the early 1960s Alford probably felt far more safer making the affair public now than at any other point since the end of the Kennedy administration. Alford herself discusses the contrast between the world she grew up in and modern society. On page 97, she writes, “Sex was a closed subject back then: There was no nudity in movies, television was chaste and wholesome; advertising was corny and square by today’s coarse standards. But among my crowd, boy crazy as some of us were, the topic of sex was taboo.”  So while revealing the affair several decades ago would have been almost suicidal, in today’s world all Alford had to do was place herself under house arrest to dodge the media for five days.

In part the book is an effort by the author to unburden herself with the pain the secret has caused her for several decades. Alford had to risk confiding in a few select individuals to attain a measure of peace. Unfortunately she found that her first husband’s reaction to the revelation was to forbid her from ever speaking about her relationship with President Kennedy to anyone ever again.

If you are looking for a brilliant political analysis of the great events that took place during the Kennedy Administration this book will not be for you. Alford discusses the President’s mood during the Cuban Missile Crisis and she notes the rise of the Civil Rights movement, but the events are not dissected in any detail. The book is strictly about the author’s relationship with the President and its impact on her life.

I do feel that the author was unnecessarily harsh on herself by stating that she is only a footnote to a footnote in the history books. It will be up to both historians and the book’s readers to make that decision. They may find that Alford’s book reveals more about President Kennedy than was initially known.

Comments closed.