John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at Shannon Airport Upon Leaving for England.

June 29, 1963

I WANT to express my thanks to the County Council and this is where we all say goodbye.

I want to express our greatest thanks to the President of your country, your great President, to your Prime Minister, and to all the members of the government, and especially to all the people of Ireland who have taken us in.

Ireland is an unusual place. What happened 500 or 1000 years ago is yesterday, where we on the other side of the Atlantic 3000 miles away, we are next door. While there may be those removed by two. or three generations from Ireland, they may have left 100 years ago their people, and yet when I ask how many people may have relatives in America nearly everybody holds up their hands.

So Ireland is a very special place. It has fulfilled in the past a very special role. It is in a very real sense the mother of a great many people, a great many millions of people, and in a sense a great many nations. And what gives me the greatest satisfaction and pride, being of Irish descent, is the realization that even today this very small island still sends thousands, literally thousands, of its sons and daughters to the ends of the globe to carry on an historic task which Ireland assumed 1400 or 1500 years ago.

So this has been really the high point of our trip. Last night I sat next to one of the most extraordinary women, the wife of your President, who knows more about Ireland and Irish history. So I told her I was coming to Shannon, and she immediately quoted this poem, and I wrote down the words because I thought they were so beautiful:

'Tis it is the Shannon's brightly glancing stream,

Brightly gleaming, silent in the morning beam,

Oh, the sight entrancing,

Thus returns from travels long,

Years of exile, years of pain,

To see old Shannon's face again,

O'er the waters dancing.

Well, I am going to come back and see old Shannon's face again, and I am taking, as I go back to America, all of you with me.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. In his opening remarks he referred to the Clare County Council, whose members presented him with a gift of old Irish silver.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at Shannon Airport Upon Leaving for England. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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