Famous Kennedy speech in New Ross in 1963 was only 300 words
Grandson and other clan members to travel to Wexford to commemorate event
John F Kennedy poses with relatives in Dunganstown, Co Wexford, on his visit to Ireland in 1963.
Mary Robinson once said that the smell of fresh paint would be one of the abiding memories of her presidency. Local communities always seemed to have redecorated whatever centre or school she was visiting just before the presidential party arrived.
The smell of fresh paint, the dust of freshly laid pavements and the colours of newly planted flower beds were prominent in New Ross this week as the local authorities and shop owners busily readied the quayside for the arrival of American political royalty next weekend. The Kennedy clan are coming to town.
Four miles out the road at Dunganstown the scene was also one of dust and fresh paint as the Office of Public Works put the finishing touches to the new visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead. Curator and Kennedy cousin Patrick Grennan and heritage interpretive designer Jack Harrison have assembled a fascinating exhibition of photographs, observations and memorabilia capturing the extraordinary journey that is the Kennedy story.
The visitor centre will be officially opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Caroline Kennedy next Saturday afternoon. Later that evening they will also light an eternal flame to emigrants beside the Dunbrody famine ship at New Ross. It’s all part of a series of Kennedy homecoming events as three dozen American-based Kennedys join with their local cousins, the townspeople and thousands of expected visitors to mark the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s visit as president in 1963.
Among the dramatic works which the town council has undertaken at the quayside in New Ross has been the erection of a statute in bronze by Ann Meldon Hugh replicating a US presidential podium at the spot where John F Kennedy spoke. Having checked the online footage of the speech and even the minutes of the relevant town council meeting from 1963 the town manager, Eamonn Hore, was able to pinpoint to within a metre the precise spot as appropriate location for the podium statute. The bronze podium has already become an attraction in its own right. On recent bright summer evenings one could see people standing behind it and having their presidential speech-making pose captured on smartphone cameras.
The full text of John F Kennedy’s speech in 1963 has been engraved on the podium top. The most striking thing about the speech is how short it was: it runs to just over 300 words. It lasted just three minutes. A press copy of the New Ross remarks preserved in the Kennedy Library in Boston shows four closely typed paragraphs which take up about two-thirds of a single A4 page. Footage of the speech in the library, and widely available online, suggests that the president’s jokes on the day were ad-libbed, but of course they were included in the advance text published to the press.