Wednesday, December 20, 2017

JFK reassures child: "You must not worry about Santa Claus"

The wonderful Twitter account of presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss tipped me off to the existence of this 1961 letter from President John F. Kennedy to 8-year-old Michigan resident Michelle Rochon, who was concerned that the Russians might bomb Santa Claus and the North Pole.

Her original letter to him stated:
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole because they will kill Santa Claus.
I am 8 years old. I am in the third grade at Holy Cross School.

Kennedy's response to the girl, 56 years ago, assured her that she "must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas." JFK also added a note of political concern, from the U.S. perspective, about the dangers of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

In 1963, the United States and Soviet Union were among the countries that pledged, by treaty, to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. It did, however, permit underground nuclear testing.

For more background on Rochon's letter, I recommend a 2013 article by CBC News' Mark Gollom. Interviewed for that article, Michelle Rochon Phillips says the letter from the president reassured her when she was 8: "All I understood was that he talked to Santa Claus and he was fine and he'd be coming around this Christmas. President Kennedy said so. So everything was good."

If only things were that easy.

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