Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Toasts of the President and the President of Ireland

March 17, 1959

Mr. President, Mrs. O'Kelly, and My Friends:

It is a delightful privilege that I have this evening to welcome the President of Ireland to this country, to this capital city, to this house. I think only an Irishman could possibly have the language, the terminology, to describe the close feeling, the feeling of affection that America has for Ireland.

Now, my name, wouldn't it sound funny if I tried to say O'Eisenhower? Nevertheless, I think I sum up the feeling of an Irishman in America when he tries to say to you: Welcome--welcome--to a people that are so very dear and close to us.

It is not, I think, just because there are so many Irish in America. And I don't think it's because they have had such a big part in helping to win the wars in which we have been so unfortunate to indulge. And I don't think it's particularly just because they like a fight! But there is something almost romantic even in their names. Whether it's O'Shaughnessey or whether it's O'Kelly, there's something, a sort of a feeling that is quite individual. I think the American senses this, and whether the Irishman is what we used to call a "gandy dancer" on the railroad or whether he is occupying the highest places in Government or in business or in the professions, there is still a rather fine feeling when you go up to him and say, "How do you do, I am glad to see you."

I have learned during the course of this day with you, sir, that all of these qualities that the Irish have, to inspire affection, admiration, and liking, you have in full measure.

And I am quite certain that in saying that, I mean only that you are representative of this lovely island from which you come, and the people that have sent you here as our guest.

So as I pay again a tribute to this wonderful feeling of warm friendship that has never been broken between Ireland and ourselves--and incidentally, Mr. President, I have always wondered how you people can call yourselves neutral, you are in every fight there is--and maybe that's another reason we like you--but in any event, as I try to express that feeling of warm friendship that we know exists between your people and ours, and which we know shall never be broken, I can do it in no better terms than merely to request you to stand up and drink with me to Ireland, its President and his charming lady. Mr. President!

Note: The President proposed this toast at a state dinner at the White House. President O'Kelly responded as follows:

Mr. President, Madam, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Maybe you can all hear me, but you might not all be able to see me--I stand up as tall as I can. But I am profoundly grateful to your President for the most gracious and kindly and friendly words spoken about me. Deep down in my heart I have always had good reason to have affection for the United States and its people. But after today and their wonderful demonstration in this great city, the capital of this great nation, and your most kind and all too generous remarks about me personally, I am overflowing with affection, not alone for the United States and its people, but for the two Eisenhowers. God bless you both.

I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity of being here as President of Ireland. But first of all, Mr. President, I would like to express my very deep appreciation of your great kindness in inviting me to come to this country as your official guest.

This visit marks for me one of the highlights of a long public career which began in the early days of this century, and which comes to a close in a few months' time. On the 24th of June I walk out of the President's House in Dublin, and I become a "has been."

I count myself fortunate that my official activity lay within those particular years. They have seen the suppression of freedom in countries dear to you, sir, and to me. But they have also seen the emergence of freedom in many nations old and new. The Irish nation, which as you have so kindly said more than once, Mr. President, is among the oldest on the earth is one of these that has won its freedom in recent times. I thank God that it should have been given to me to witness, though still unfortunately for less than the entirety of our ancient land, the realization of the dreams and the endeavors of many generations of Irishmen, and to have the privilege of playing some part myself--and my wife--in that realization.

Our generation has seen, too, the rise of this great Republic of the United States of America to new pinnacles of glory and of power, and also of responsibility. No more than in Ireland has the outstanding material progress of this country been so warmly welcomed, nowhere have the efforts of the American government and people, to give in their international conduct an example of justice and the rule of law, been more generally applauded than in Ireland.

For seeking ourselves no advantages at the expense of others, we profoundly appreciate that the leading world power in the world today should dedicate itself so unselfishly to the cause of peace and should be so lavish of its own resources in that great cause.

I know, Mr. President, that your invitation to me was above all intended to mark the close friendship between our two nations. That friendship dates from the very beginning of American independence, and reflects the equal attachment of our two peoples to freedom, justice, and tolerance.

And there are very few of us in Ireland but have some ties of blood within this great community. I think it is true to say--maybe a slight exaggeration, but not much--that there is hardly a family in Ireland that hasn't relatives in the United States. I think that is true.

The debt of my country to yours in this regard was well expressed by Walt Whitman in the poem to old Ireland, when he wrote, "What you wept for was translated, passed from the grave, the winds favored and the sea sail'd it, and now with rosy and new blood, moves today in a new country."

I can think of no higher tribute to Ireland than that the President of the United States of America should mark in such a signal manner the feast day of our nation, the apostle of St. Patrick, under whose special protection we stand and through whose labors was implanted in us those many centuries ago the gift of the Christian heritage.

This heritage our people have always cherished, and through it they have been privileged to contribute to the spiritual store of other nations, and not least of the American nation, to which we are now attached by so many ties and such a wealth of grateful memories.

Your most cordial welcome adds a precious new chapter to the noble record of our relations and one of which my country shall always be proud and sensible. And no humble or great citizen in that nation be more proud and more sensible of the honor done than your humble friend, the President of Ireland!

Your health, sir!


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Toasts of the President and the President of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235338

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