Was John F. Kennedy more Harvard than Irish? -- new book raises the issue again


He was elected president 50 years ago this week yet he remains as fresh in our lives and minds as if he stepped down just a few years ago.

John F.Kennedy is the subject of a new book about his visits to Ireland, including, interestingly, his trip to research his Irish roots in the 1940s.

The book entitled 'JFK in Ireland" is written by Ireland's top television host and journalist Ryan Tubridy whose family has long connections to the Kennedy clan.

Since the book was published some in Ireland have tried to rubbish the premise that Kennedy was really interested in his Irish roots.

That is an old argument and one that has been flatly contradicted by the facts, something I quickly discovered when I talked to his siblings, brother Teddy and sister jean.

I have not read Tubridy's book yet, which I believe is a spirited case for the notion that John Kennedy did for Ireland what Barack Obama did for Africa in terms of world recognition.

There is no doubt about that. I was ten when he came to Ireland. It was like the advent of technicolor, when all that was black and white and dreary was suddenly transformed.

The Kennedy not interested in his Irish roots argument has also been floated over here for many years.

This is despite one key fact that it was Kennedy himself who insisted on the Irish leg of his trip in 1963, in order to pay homage to his ancestral home.

This is after all the man who spoke the words "All of us of Irish descent are bound together by the ties that come from a common experience, experience which may exist only in memories and in legend, but which is real enough to those who possess it."

And he possessed it.

Still, there are those here who have always claimed that Kennedy was more Brahmin than Irish, more Harvard than Celt, but the fact of those three trips to Ireland in his short life certainly belie that theory.

Indeed, Teddy Kennedy was always very fond of recalling the many times that John summoned him to his compound on Hyannis Port when he was president and replayed the tapes of his Irish visit to him.

Teddy also recounted how Jack said he had been almost insulted by the advice of poet Robert Frost who told him at his inauguration to be 'more Irish than Harvard'

Teddy also talked at length about how Jack had been inspired by Eamon De Valera, man who went from revolutionary to Prime Minister and president and how Jack viewed him as a real-live Washington-type figure.

Jean Kennedy too, has always remarked on how the trip to Ireland had stayed foremost in Jack's mind for the rest of his brief life.

But perhaps the greatest evidence is that after his tragic assassination, it was De Valera who Jackie Onassis turned to among all the guests at his funeral , knowing how much the Irish trip and his relationship with Kennedy had meant to the slain president.

It was also the Irish Army which formed the honor guard in Washington.

His wife and closest family never had any doubt that In his heart Jack Kennedy was a paid-up member of the tribe

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