• U.S.

The Presidency: Folly & Laughter

2 minute read

The White House has many doors. Last week a lady guest, looking for a mislaid briefcase after a ceremony honoring the Teacher of the Year, opened the wrong door—and walked in on John Kennedy. Gently, the President of the U.S. ushered the intruder out of his bathroom.

It was that kind of a week for Kennedy. With Jackie in Palm Beach, the President took over some of her social chores. More than 1,000 music pupils and high school, students swarmed onto the newly planted South Lawn to hear the Central Kentucky Youth Symphony Orchestra performing at one of Jackie’s cultural programs. At another garden party for 100 foreign Fulbright scholars, the President was upstaged by a 17-month-old Arab girl, who cavorted around him and cried “Mommie, mom-mie,” while Kennedy saluted “some of the brightest minds from abroad.” Said the President, manfully ignoring the fact that some of his new flower beds had taken a beating from the week’s crowds: “This garden, like other things around Washington, is new and growing and blossoming.”

There were the usual minor matters.

He named Nathaniel Welch of Auburn, Ala., to the Southern Interstate Nuclear Board, appointed four members to the Battle of Lake Erie Sesquicentennial Celebration Commission, notified Philadelphia that the Navy would name a Polaris submarine after Benjamin Franklin, made a phone call that commenced a year-long mechanical countdown toward the 1964 opening of the New York World’s Fair.

The President had one chance for real relaxation. It was the soth birthday of his longtime friend Dave Powers, who serves as receptionist, relaxer, and rollick-some wit. Kennedy threw a surprise party for Powers, called him into the Cabinet Room to attend a “secret session” on Laos, handed him such gifts as a sweatshirt emblazoned VIGAH, a certificate for 50-mile hikes between the reception desk and the White House refrigerator for beer, and a silver stein engraved:

There are three things which are real.

God, human jolly and laughter.

The first two are beyond comprehension,

So we must do what we can with the third.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com