Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks of Welcome to President O'Kelly of Ireland at the Washington National Airport

March 17, 1959

Mr. President, Mrs. O'Kelly, members of your party, ladies and gentlemen:

It is indeed a signal honor to welcome here to America the first President of Ireland who has ever visited our shores. And it is particularly felicitous that we can welcome him on the birthday, the anniversary, of the great Irish saint--some fifteen hundred years since his death.

Now as I welcome you, Mr. President, I find myself in a rather difficult situation, and I am sure that the protocol officers of our two governments wouldn't know exactly how to solve the problem.

It is this: today everybody in the United States is Irish.

Now, those who look Irish and sound Irish and have Irish names, they don't have to prove this in any way. But anyone with the name Eisenhower must wear something green which I have.

In any event, all of us are Irish.

So, I would say that for this day at least, though you come as the official President of Ireland, in our hearts you are President for all of us. So this particular welcome that I extend to you is not only as from the President of the United States but one of your subjects, because of your particular position in relationship to the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick.

Welcome again to all of you.

Note: President O'Kelly responded as follows:

Mr. President, I salute my most distinguished subject.

I thank you, sir, for your most kind words of welcome, which have touched me deeply. They are an expression of the great American tradition of hospitality. They also reflect that close friendship and mutual understanding which have always so happily existed between Ireland and the United States of America

I am very sensible, Mr. President, of the great honor you did me and my country in inviting me to come to the United States as your guest. But I am most profoundly grateful that you should have asked me to come at this particular time. It is, as you have so graciously said, a happy augury that the first official visit of the President of Ireland should begin on St. Patrick's Day. On this day the Irish honor the Apostle of the Gael but we are not alone in doing so. Nowhere, I venture to say, is this feast celebrated with greater enthusiasm than here in the United States. We in Ireland remember with gratitude the unfailing sympathy and generous help which Ireland has always received from the American people. We recall with pride the part played in the history of your Republic by Irish men and Irish women, and we admire with an unqualified admiration the remarkable achievements of this great nation, and the pre-eminent position it has achieved.

But above all, we rejoice that the United States has always remained true to the high purpose and the noble ideals of the Founding Fathers which in the words of Abraham Lincoln--whom we especially honor this year--contain as he said, the germ which has vegetated and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.

Permit me once more, Mr. President, to thank you for your cordial welcome, and to assure you how honored and privileged I feel personally to renew acquaintance with this great country and its noble President and people.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks of Welcome to President O'Kelly of Ireland at the Washington National Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235327

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