A high point of President John F. Kennedy’s time in office was his official visit to Ireland on June 26-29, 1963.
The visit captured the world’s imagination and shone a spotlight on the new Republic of Ireland. The visit was a triumphant, emotionally charged promenade in which the entire population of Ireland seemed to participate. Kennedy’s motorcade passed regally through the streets of Dublin, Cork, and Galway as thousands of proud Irish cheered him with tears of joy in their eyes, and the twin flags of Ireland and the United States waved madly for him.
The President’s eight great-grandparents all migrated to Boston, Massachusetts during the Potato Famine of the late 1840’s, seeking to take advantage of the economic opportunity offered in America. By the end of the century, both of President Kennedy’s grandfathers had become successful Boston politicians. Patrick J. Kennedy was a tavern owner and later a banker who served in both Houses of the Massachusetts Legislature and was the political "boss” of a ward in Boston. John F. ("Honey Fitz") Fitzgerald, a colorful politician who served in the Massachusetts State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, was also mayor of Boston for three terms.
He visited the modest town of New Ross, Wexford, which twenty-five-year-old Patrick Kennedy had left in 1848 on a ship bound for Boston.
“When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”
In Limerick, he said,“This is not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection, and I will certainly come back in the springtime.”
On his final appearance in Galway before departing for home, President Kennedy said, “You send us home covered with gifts, which we can barely carry, but most of all you send us home with the warmest memories of you and your country.”
Learn more about President Kennedy's by visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.
Read more about JFK's Irish ancestry here.