When John F. Kennedy became the youngest person ever to be elected to the US presidency, world leaders were skeptical. A 43-year-old son of a family tantamount to American royalty, Kennedy was dropped into rocky relations with the Soviet Union when he took office in 1961.
Nikita Khrushchev, meanwhile, had taken over after Stalin’s death. In October 1962, the two leaders’ tensions came to a head over the Cuban missile crisis. A few days after that political stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union, Kennedy sent a letter to his mother, asking her to stop contacting foreign heads of state without letting him know.
Apparently, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy had asked Khrushchev for signed photos just two months earlier, in August. Upon receiving them, she sent them to her son, suggesting he sign them as well. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, author of nine books, including his latest, Presidential Courage, tweeted Kennedy’s very polite response yesterday, which was Mother’s Day in the United States:
It was the first time Kennedy had heard about his mother’s request to her Soviet pen pal, according to a 2013 JFK Library blog post. Rose Kennedy wrote back, with aplomb and a sliver of motherly shade, joking “When I ask for Castro’s autograph, I shall let you know in advance!”
The stoic Rose Kennedy had nine children with her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., and was known to keep meticulous notes on index cards about each kid and his or her medical records. Perhaps a few details about how to talk to her son’s rivals slipped through the cracks.