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Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on the Occasion of Leif Ericson Day

October 09, 1960

The lands of the Vikings - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland - have given the world men who have pushed forward the frontiers both of geography and government.

Almost a thousand years ago, the great Scandinavian explorer, Leif Ericson, sailed into unknown seas, and he and his brave band became the first Europeans to set foot in America.

To our immigrants from Ericson's land the United States is indebted for tens of thousands of citizens, who by their industry have built up our fisheries and made the fertile plains of the West a source of food for the would. They have, through industry and sturdy self-reliance, contributed immeasurably to the greatness of our country, and their sons have provided wise counsel and guidance as Congressmen, Governors, Senators, and in other high offices.

In its state of trouble and division today the world has again turned to the land of Leif Erieson for leadership in charting the seas of world politics, in an endeavor to find ways in which mankind might live together in peace all over the globe. It was by no accident that the United Nations turned to Norway for its first Secretary General, Trygve Lie, and to Sweden for the great statesman who presently fills that post, Dag Hammarskjold.

Just as Ericson was the first to lead the way across the great ocean, so these two statesmen have been our leaders in the greatest exploration of all - the search for world peace.

For all of these things we are indebted to the ancient countries of the north. One of them, Iceland, proudly claims the oldest parliament in the world. The peoples of these lands have always believed in liberty, and have also possessed the wisdom and determination needed for maintaining the institutions of democracy. For all of this, we salute them today.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on the Occasion of Leif Ericson Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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