He may have been the most powerful man in the world, but John F. Kennedy learned that there are some things even the President of the United States can’t do. He commanded a military of nearly 3 million people who would follow his orders without question, but there was one person to whom he needed to say, “Please.” That person who could reduce POTUS to a little boy was none other than his mother.
As any proud mother of the President would do, Rose Kennedy began collecting autographed pictures of her son with famous people. Having already received responses from Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, David Ben-Gurion, and others, Mrs. Kennedy wrote to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in August 1962, sending him a copy of a picture of Premier and Mrs. Khrushchev with President and Mrs. Kennedy. The sought autograph was received in October, and she sent the picture to her son so he could add his signature, as well.
Unbeknownst to Mrs. Kennedy, her correspondence with the leader of the Soviet Union was taking place in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis — the time in which the USA and the Soviet Union came the closest to open war with each other.
The President could have chewed out anyone else for potentially creating an embarrassing situation for him, but when it came to his mother, he had to apply a bit more diplomacy. The result was a “Dear Mother” letter on White House stationery, asking her to “be sure to let me know in the future any contacts you have with heads of state, etc. Requests of this nature are subject to interpretations and therefore I would like to have you clear them before they are sent.”
Fortunately, Mother Kennedy received the message with understanding, grace, and humor. She responded a week later, promising to let her son know in advance before seeking Fidel Castro‘s autograph.
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