Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering JFK - Triumph before tragedy

50 year's on and so much has been written about the tragic assassination of one of America's most charismatic presidents that it does not need to repeated here.
Perhaps a happier, though overshadowed, memory was of his triumphal "homecoming" to Ireland in the summer before the fateful events in Dallas. Kennedy as the great grandchild of Irish immigrants received a tumultuous reception from the crowds that turned out to greet their "returned son". The imagery and importance of his visit for Irish people should not be underestimated. Certainly it left a strong impression on my young parents when they saw him in Cork (picture below of JFK motorcade in St.Patrick's Street).

So there was great joy throughout the country, and perhaps some joy for JFK as well before the dark clouds of November.
I will leave it with JFK's own words, from a short excerpt of his speech to the Oireachtas (both houses of the Irish Parliament):

I am grateful for your welcome and for that of your countrymen.
The 13th day of December, 1862, will be a day long remembered in American history. At Fredericksburg, Va., thousands of men fought and died on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the American Civil War. One of the most brilliant stories of that day was written by a band of 1200 men who went into battle wearing a green sprig in their hats. They bore a proud heritage and a special courage, given to those who had long fought for the cause of freedom. I am referring, of course, to the Irish Brigade. General Robert E. Lee, the great military leader of the Southern Confederate forces, said of this group of men after the battle, "The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. Their brilliant though hopeless assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and soldiers."
Of the 1200 men who took part in that assault, 280 survived the battle...... In the fall of 1862, after serving with distinction and gallantry in some of the toughest fighting of this most bloody struggle, the Irish Brigade was presented with a new set of flags...... Today, in recognition of what these gallant Irishmen and what millions of other Irish have done for my country, and through the generosity of the "Fighting 69th," I would like to present one of these flags to the people of Ireland...
I am proud to be the first American President to visit Ireland during his term of office, proud to be addressing this distinguished assembly, and proud of the welcome you have given me. My presence and your welcome, however, only symbolize the many and the enduring links which have bound the Irish and the Americans since the earliest days....

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