Fifty-Year-Old Secrets and No Regrets

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I saw Mimi Alford confess recently in TV interviews to an 18-month affair with President John F. Kennedy, I couldn’t look away. The attractive 69-year-old grandmother appeared demure, self-contained and gracious. Promoting her book Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath, she faced questioning head on about the sordid bits of her written account, and not-so-veiled accusations from Barbara Walters on “The View” that she was peddling her story to sell books.

Mimi Alford was 19 years old and working in the White House press office when it first happened fifty years ago. As a sophomore in Wheaton College she didn’t rationalize her compliance by using the excuse of her vulnerability or susceptibility to power, nor, inexplicably, did she blame President Kennedy. What she did do was admit her own willingness and, more troubling, her lack of regret.

Emily Esfani Smith in her blog “Ricochet” said, “I wouldn’t say this admission–her willingness–was the most shocking part of the story, but her candor here did take me aback and make me wonder if by coming forward, and talking in plain and honest terms about the affair, should we praise Alford for her courage, or consider her a petty opportunist? I like her honesty and, since admitting that on national television took some guts, I’d be willing to call her brave.”

Random House, her publisher, calls Alford’s book “a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.”

Since I saw Alford’s 15-minutes-of-fame-interviews, I’ve been thinking of the power of secrets, corruption and power, Alford’s lack of regret, and our society’s need to profit from anything in our personal lives from which one can possibly profit.

And I’ve been thinking of other women Mimi Alford’s age—very soon my age—who may have secrets that once festered inside but have found the grace to confess them to God, the burden bearer, the One who forgives and cleanses. And I’m thinking of other young and mature women who live shadow-free lives by living in the light and not letting darkness burrow into them deeply.

For Mimi Alford, and for all of us, I am praying for freedom from the power of hidden secrets, freedom to forgive and be forgiven, freedom to walk in the light. The words of an old hymn say it well:

“Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,

Jesus, I come, Jesus I come;

Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,

Jesus I come to Thee …”

William T. Sleeper

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012

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