Bloomberg News

Scene in D.C.: Jackie Kennedy Letters, Irish Torch for JFK (1)

June 20, 2013

"Letters to Jackie" Screening

Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, and Bill Couturie, the writer and director of "Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy." Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

The American Film Institute’s Docs film festival opened last night with “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy.”

The film centers on some of the 800,000 missives written to the first lady after her husband’s 1963 assassination, which are read by various actors.

A retired librarian named Gretchen Farwell attended. She wrote a letter to the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy while a student at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

“I started to shake,” Farwell said on hearing her words being read by actress Jessica Chastain last night. “I’ve never written a letter before or since.”

Janis Hirsch, a comedy writer for TV shows “Murphy Brown” and “Will and Grace,” was a child suffering from polio when she wrote to Kennedy. Still in crutches, she was there last night with a big smile as her letter was read by Hailee Steinfeld of “True Grit” fame.

The documentary, which will air on TLC later this year, is based on the book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation” by Ellen Fitzpatrick, and was written and directed by Bill Couturie.

Corn Dogs

Guests eyed a new Audi model, courtesy of Audi of America Inc., the festival’s chief sponsor, or occupied themselves with pomegranate martinis and lobster roll corn dogs. Audi of America President Scott Keogh appreciated the documentary festival’s “real stories.”

Lyndon Boozer, assistant vice president, federal relations, for AT&T Inc. (T:US), whose mother worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, came with Jesse Price, a senior director of federal government affairs with Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY:US), and Tonya Williams, director of legislative affairs in the office of Vice President Joe Biden. The festival runs through June 23.

The Irish Embassy organized a ceremony on Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery to honor President John F. Kennedy’s visit to his ancestral homeland of Ireland 50 years ago.

“It’s a story every immigrant holds in his heart,” said Representative Joseph Kennedy III, Massachusetts Democrat and great nephew of JFK. “It’s a story of a thousand welcomes and a million tears. It’s a story of a young man returning home.”

Kennedy, 32, was joined by cousins Timothy Shriver, the chief executive of Special Olympics International Inc., and Sydney Lawford, daughter of actor Peter Lawford and granddaughter of patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy.

Emigrant Flame

Fire from the Eternal Flame at the gravesite of President Kennedy and his wife will be transferred to a new Emigrant Flame, in County Wexford. That’s the home of Patrick Kennedy, President Kennedy’s great-grandfather, who left Ireland in the 19th century.

The ceremony in Ireland will take place on Saturday with Caroline Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in attendance.

Paul Kehoe, the government of Ireland’s chief whip and minister of state, said that President Kennedy’s 1963 historic visit came at a time when Ireland needed a confidence boost.

“He was living proof that Irish people could do anything they set their minds to do.”

(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Lance Esplund on art.

To contact the writer on this story: Stephanie Green in Washington at sgreen57@bloomberg.net or on Twitter @stephlgreen.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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