There is also an unconfirmed rumour that Hoban was never fully paid for his work on the White House. If this proves to be true, I will speak to our Secretary of the Treasury about it, although I hear this body is not particularly interested in the subject of revenue.
I am proud to be the first American President to visit Ireland during his term of office, proud to be addressing this distinguished assembly, and proud of the welcome you have given me. My presence and your welcome, however, only symbolise the many and the enduring links which have bound the Irish and the Americans since the earliest days.
Benjamin Franklin, the envoy of the American Revolution, who was also born in Boston, was received by the Irish Parliament in 1772. It was neither independent nor free from discrimination at the time, but Franklin reported its members “disposed to be friends of America.” “By joining our interest with theirs,” he said, “a more equitable treatment … might be obtained for both nations.”
Our interests have been joined ever since. Franklin sent leaflets to Irish freedom fighters. O’Connell was influenced by Washington, and Emmet influenced Lincoln. Irish volunteers played so predominant a role in the American Army that Lord Mountjoy lamented in the British Parliament: “We have lost America through the Irish.” John Barry, whose statue was honoured yesterday, and whose sword is in my office, was only one who fought for liberty in America to set an example for liberty in Ireland.
esterday was the 117th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Stewart Parnell —whose grandfather fought under Barry and whose mother was born in America—and who, at the age of 34, was invited to address the American Congress on the cause of Irish freedom. “I have seen since I have been in this country,” he said, “so many tokens of the good wishes of the American people toward Ireland…” And today, 83 years later, I can say to you that I have seen in this country so many tokens of good wishes of the Irish people towards America.
And so it is that our two nations, divided by distance, have been united by history. No people ever believed more deeply in the cause of Irish freedom than the people of the United States. And no country contributed more to building my own than your sons and daughters. They came to our shores in a mixture of hope and agony, and I would not underrate the difficulties of their course once they arrived in the United States. They left behind hearts, fields, and a nation yearning to be free. It is no wonder that James Joyce described the Atlantic as a bowl of bitter tears, and an earlier poet wrote: “They are going, going, going, and we cannot bid them stay.”
But today this is no longer the country of hunger and famine that those immigrants left behind. It is not rich and its progress is not yet complete, but it is, according to statistics, one of the best fed countries in the world. Nor is it any longer a country of persecution, political or religious. It is a free country, and that is why any American feels at home.
There are those who regard this history of past strife and exile as better forgotten, but to use the phrase of Yeats: “Let us not casually reduce that great past to a trouble of fools, for we need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future.”
And it is the present and the future of Ireland that today hold so much promise to my nation as well as to yours, and, indeed, to all mankind, for the Ireland of 1963, one of the youngest of nations, and the oldest of civilisations, has discovered that the achievement of nationhood is not an end, but a beginning. In the years since independence, you have undergone a new and peaceful revolution, an economic and industrial revolution, transforming the face of this land, while still holding to the old spiritual and cultural values. You have modernised your economy, harnessed your rivers, diversified your industry, liberalised your trade, electrified your farms, accelerated your rate of growth, and improved the living standard of your people.
Other nations of the world in whom Ireland has long invested her people and her children are now investing their capital as well as their vacations here in Ireland. This revolution is not yet over, nor will it be, I am sure, until a fully modern Irish economy fully shares in world prosperity. But prosperity is not enough.
Over 150 years ago, Henry Grattan, demanding the more independent Irish Parliament that would always bear his name, denounced those who were satisfied merely by new grants of economic opportunity. “A country,” he said, “enlightened as Ireland, chartered as Ireland, armed as Ireland, and injured as Ireland, will not be satisfied with anything less than liberty.” And today, I am certain, free Ireland, a full-fledged member of the world community, where some are not yet free, and where some counsel an acceptance of tyranny—free Ireland will not be satisfied with anything less than liberty.
I am glad, therefore, that Ireland is moving in the mainstream of current world events. For I sincerely believe that your future is as promising as your past is proud, and that your destiny lies not as a peaceful island in a sea of troubles, but as a maker and shaper of world peace.
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