Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has nominated John F Kennedy’s speech to the Irish parliament during his vist in 1963 as his favorite speech of all time.
Kenny told TheJournal.ie that, “I have always admired President John F Kennedy and often find myself recalling words from some of his many exceptional speeches, such as his address to the Irish Parliament during his historic 1963 visit when he spoke so eloquently in praise of ‘the little ‘five feet high’ nations’ and of the Irish people’s ‘remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination.’
"For me, the sentiment contained in that particular speech is as relevant today as it was almost fifty years ago. I believe and trust in the Irish people just as he did then – that our strength of spirit and determination will allow us to overcome any difficulties we may face.”
The full speech delivered by President John F Kennedy to members of the Dáil and the Seanad on 28 June 1963:
Mr. Speaker, Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament: I am grateful for your welcome and for that of your countrymen.
The 13th day of September, 1862, will be a day long remembered in American history. At Fredericksburg, Maryland, thousands of men fought and died on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the American Civil War. One of the most brilliant stories of that day was written by a band of 1,200 men who went into battle wearing a green sprig in their hats. They bore a proud heritage and a special courage, given to those who had long fought for the cause of freedom. I am referring, of course, to the Irish Brigade. General Robert E. Lee, the great military leader of the Southern Confederate forces, said of this group of men after the battle: “The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. Their brilliant, though hopeless, assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and soldiers.”
Of the 1,200 men who took part in that assault, 280 survived the battle. The Irish Brigade was led into battle on that occasion by Brigadier General Thomas F. Meagher, who had participated in the unsuccessful Irish uprising of 1848, was captured by the British and sent in a prison ship to Australia, from whence he finally came to America. In the fall of 1862, after serving with distinction and gallantry in some of the toughest fighting of this most bloody struggle, the Irish Brigade was presented with a new set of flags. In the city ceremony, the city chamberlain gave them the motto “The Union, our Country, and Ireland Forever.” Their old ones having been torn to shreds by bullets in previous battles, Captain Richard McGee took possession of these flags on September 2nd in New York City and arrived with them at the Battle of Fredericksburg and carried them in the battle. Today, in recognition of what these gallant Irishmen and what millions of other Irish have done for my country, and through the generosity of the Fighting 69th, I would like to present one of these flags to the people of Ireland.
The President then unveiled the flag which was in position to the left of the dais.
As you can see, gentlemen, the battle honours of the Brigade include Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Gaines Hill, Allen’s Farm, Savage’s Station, White Oak Bridge, Glendale, Malvern Hills, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Bristoe’s Station.
I am deeply honoured to be your guest in the free Parliament of a free Ireland. If this nation had achieved its present political and economic stature a century or so ago, my great grandfather might never have left New Ross, and I might, if fortunate, be sitting down there with you. Of course, if your own President had never left Brooklyn, he might be standing up here instead of me.
This elegant building, as you know, was once the property of the Fitzgerald family, but I have not come here to claim it. Of all the new relations I have discovered on this trip, I regret to say that no one has yet found any link between me and a great Irish patriot, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lord Edward, however, did not like to stay here in his family home “because,” as he wrote his mother, “Leinster House does not inspire the brightest ideas.” That was a long time ago, however. It has also been said by some that a few of the features of this stately mansion served to inspire similar features in the White House in Washington. Whether this is true or not, I know that the White House was designed by James Hoban, a noted Irish-American architect, and I have no doubt that he believed, by incorporating several features of the Dublin style, he would make it more homelike for any President of Irish descent. It was a long wait, but I appreciate his efforts.