Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President de Valera of Ireland
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:
Mr. President, I am very happy and proud to welcome you to the United States. We consider this to be your second country and you are always welcome on this soil.
On your first trip 45 years ago, you came to interest America in the cause of Irish freedom, much as Benjamin Franklin, the envoy of the American Revolution, visited Ireland in 1772.
Freedom for Ireland has been the driving mastering passion of your life, and America is honored today to have back a native son who has become Ireland's liberator, Ireland's senior statesman, and Ireland's President.
There is one man who is not here with us today who would especially be proud of this moment--John Fitzgerald Kennedy. President Kennedy loved Ireland and he held for you, Mr. President, personally the deepest affection.
When he returned from Ireland last summer, we all knew how impressed he had been with the great reception that had been given him by the people of his ancestral land.
Now it is our turn and our privilege to greet you, Mr. President. To no other Irish leader do we owe a greater debt than you for the contributions which Ireland has made--and is making--to the building of a world community under the rule of law.
This is the country of your birth, Mr. President. This will always be your home. You belong to us, Mr. President, just as in a very special way John F. Kennedy belonged to you.
So, this morning, it gives me great pride and pleasure on behalf of all of the American people to welcome you home. We are glad that you are here.
Note: The President spoke on the South Lawn at the White House where President Eamon de Valera was given a formal welcome with full military honors. President de Valera responded as follows:
Thank you, Mr. President, for your very gracious words of welcome. I am sure the people of Ireland appreciate this gesture on your part.
We all know that in your position with your responsibilities it is not easy to find time for occasions like this. We appreciate it, therefore, all the more, and I am more than grateful that you should be here in person to greet me, and also that Mrs. Johnson should be good enough to come down to meet me here.
As you have said, this is a great occasion, or at least as you have suggested that this is a great occasion, for me, and so it is. I was here 45 years ago and in my work, to interest the people of America in Ireland's struggle at that time for independence, I traveled throughout the whole of the United States, practically. I spoke in all of your major cities, so truly I feel somewhat at home.
But 45 years is a long span in human life. It has always been for me a great longing that I should some day be able to return here to the United States while in a representative capacity, and travel throughout the country and say to the people in all of the large cities where such favor has been shown to us back 45 years ago, and tell all the old friends there how much their aid helped us at that time. Unfortunately, if it were possible for me to go around the country, not many of the old friends would still be left.
Back 25 years ago I had planned such a visit. I had intended traveling to all of the principal centers where great demonstrations had shown in what way the Irish people regarded Ireland's rights at that time. Although all of the arrangements were made, there was a threat of conscription of people in six of our northeastern counties and I had to cancel the visit. Mr. O'Kelly, my deputy at that time, and later President, who had the pleasure of being received here some 4 or 5 years ago, took my place.
As I have said, I do not think that any other Irishman could find an occasion like this. I find immense pleasure in coming back and being able to speak here from the Capital of your Nation to all our friends throughout the country--how deeply we appreciate and how well I remember all the help that was given to us at that time.
I don't want to detain you, Mr. President, but this morning I was taken by the good office of Mr. Humelsine to Williamsburg. I was taken in a coach-in-pair to see the old city and some of the houses in the old city, the Governor's House, and so on. But I was taken to the House of Assembly and I was sitting on the Speaker's chair and brought again to the seat from which Patrick Henry spoke.
Mr. President, it was not the first time that I sat on that chair or sat on that bench. I did it 45 years ago because I was taken at that time to all of the spots famous in American Revolutionary history--to Lexington, to Concord, to Bunker Hill, and so on--and I was, of course, taken to the seat of the Revolution in Virginia.
Once more, Mr. President, I want to express to you my very deep gratitude and on behalf of the Irish people their gratitude.
In our own language, may I say: Is mor agam na briathra failte a dubhairt tu. Taim an-bhuioch diot as ucht do chinealtais [I deeply appreciate your words of welcome. I am most grateful for your great kindness].
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President de Valera of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239612