John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Welcome at the White House to Prime Minister Lemass of Ireland

October 15, 1963

Prime Minister:

This is a great day for the Americans. It is with the greatest pride and satisfaction that I welcome you to the United States. You follow a long and distinguished list of Irish leaders who have come here in other days--Parnell, de Valera, and the others. They came to enlist the sympathy and support of Americans in their struggle for independence, and it is a source of pride to us all that that support and sympathy was forthcoming.

But now you come as the leader of a sovereign country and a country, to which I can attest from personal experience, which bears the United States the greatest good will and which bears us the strongest and most fraternal bonds of friendship.

We are proud to welcome you, Prime Minister, not only because of the long past, not only because you will see in the United States in your short visit more Irish men and women who were either born in Ireland or bear Irish blood than you would see in several years in Ireland, but also because you are building a vigorous, new country which looks to the past with pride and the future with hope.

The 3 days, Prime Minister, which we spent in Ireland this summer are among the warmest memories of our lives, and it is, therefore, a great pleasure to have a small chance to show in welcoming you our great appreciation to the Irish people for what they are doing now not only in their own country but in all parts of the world.

And, therefore, Prime Minister, "cead mile failte," which, for those of you who did not come to Ireland this summer, means "a hundred thousand welcomes."

Note: The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House where Prime Minister Lemass was given a formal welcome with full military honors. The Prime Minister responded as follows:

"Mr. President, I thank you for your kindly words of welcome. I thank you for the honor which you have done me in inviting me and my wife to visit these United States of America as your guest.

"Your historic visit to Ireland, Mr. President, in June last is still vivid in our memory. You came to the land of your ancestors as the President of the United States, and this was a great occasion for us.

"The spontaneous demonstrations of affection and esteem which you experienced wherever you went in Ireland, in Dublin, in Wexford--particularly in Wexford--in Cork and Galway and in Limerick reflect the feelings of the Irish people and mark also the high regard which your great nation has amongst all our people.

"Mr. President, this is a very proud day for me to come here to the capital of your great country representing the people of Ireland, people who are now a government of their own, who are now dedicated to and free to pursue the ideals of this great democracy which has chosen you to be its leader, an Ireland which is endeavoring to provide for its own peoples the opportunities for well-being and happiness which your people have already secured.

"In these aims of ours, we find encouragement and hope in the great efforts of your people, in their achievements, in the manner in which they are now through their energy and their optimism and their confidence building the future of America on its great past.

"The friendship between our two countries began long ago in history. It was formed in the common struggle for independence. It was fostered by our common dedication to the ideals of freedom and justice and democracy, and it is fortified by ties of blood and kinship; a friendship thus supported cannot but endure, and it is our aim to develop in every possible way the cooperation between our peoples in industry and commerce and cultural activities, and to help you, sir, in your great aims of maintaining peace in the world and helping men everywhere to obtain freedom from oppression and freedom from want.

"Mr. President, I bring you the greetings of the Irish people. They realize that in extending this invitation to me it was your desire to do honor to them, and they are deeply thankful to you."

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome at the White House to Prime Minister Lemass of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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