Jackie Kennedy Onassis: America's quintessential icon of style and grace, says Doug Brinkley

Historians in the News

First lady Michelle Obama hadn't even spent her first night in the White House yet when the comparisons to Jacqueline Kennedy began.

President Obama was among the first to make the connection on the evening of his inauguration when he quipped, "Tonight I have the very special honor of being known as the guy who accompanied Michelle Obama to the ball." He was invoking the words of John F. Kennedy, who made a similar remark during a 1961 trip to Paris with his similarly glamorous young wife.

Since that January 2009 night, the comparisons have continued, making Michelle Obama the ninth first lady to be held up to what historians say is an unmatched legacy of grace, sophistication and public stoicism in the face of personal tragedy....

"She epitomized elegance in the post-World War II era," says Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. "There's never been a first lady like Jacqueline Kennedy, not only because she was so beautiful but because she was able to name an entire era 'Camelot.' … No other first lady in the 20th century will be able to have the aura. She's become an icon."

Although Kennedy was "in a league of her own," Brinkley adds, "the closest to her is Michelle Obama, the way she comports herself with such dignity at all times."...

comments powered by Disqus