“For every new nation knows that Ireland was the first of the small nations in the 20th century to win its struggle for independence, and that the Irish have traditionally sent their doctors and technicians and soldiers and priests to help other lands to keep their liberty alive …
But today this is no longer the country of hunger and famine that those emigrants left behind. It is not rich, and its progress is not yet complete; but it is, according to statistics, one of the best-fed countries in the world. Nor is it any longer a country of persecution, political or religious. It is a free country, and that is why any American feels at home.”
President Kennedy, Dublin, 28 June 1963.
John F. Kennedy was born into a political family in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917. After graduating from Harvard in 1940, he joined the U.S. Navy and was seriously injured when a patrol torpedo boat under his command was sunken by a Japanese destroyer in the Solomen Islands. He led the survivors to safety and was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism.
He later became a Democratic Congressman for the Boston area and advanced to the Senate in 1953; he married Jacqueline Bouvier later that year. In 1955, he wrote Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history.
He was a gifted and natural speaker and millions watched his televised presidential debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. John F. Kennedy won the election by a narrow margin and in 1961 became the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy was the youngest president voted into office and the first Catholic Irish-American.
The rise of John Fitzgerald Kennedy had a special resonance with the Irish in America because with the election of an Irish-American Catholic Democrat it appeared that the last ethnic and religious barriers had been overcome.