JFK PRESENTED BOWL OF SHAMROCK BY IRISH AMBASSADOR
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, March 17, 1961, Thomas J. Kiernan*, ambassador of Ireland, presented President John F. Kennedy, the first POTUS of Irish descent, a ceremonial bowl of shamrock in honor of St. Patrick's Day.
Ambassador Kiernan also gave President Kennedy a hand-printed scroll displaying the KENNEDY coat of arms signed by Gerald Slevin, Chief Herald of Ireland.
According to Robert Healy of the Boston Globe, the President was so busy that day he forgot it was St. Patty's Day. He had to have John 'Muggsie' O'Leary, a member of the secret service, go get a "soft green tie" for him to wear.
*Ambassador Kiernan & President Kennedy became close personal friends. On St. Patrick's Day 1963, JFK confided in Kiernan that he would like to visit Ireland. The Ambassador "became the critical...link between Ireland and the White House" for the state visit which would be scheduled for late June 1963.
"JFK's First St. Patrick's Day in the White House," by Michael P. Quinlin, Irish Boston History and Heritage, March 17, 2011,
"Ireland's man in D.C. in June 1963: Ambassador Thomas Kiernan," by Dr. Michael Kennedy, www.independent.ie/
It is a day of dedication....as purely American as it is Irish...recalling for all that ours is a nation founded, sustained &...preserved in the cause of liberty. None more than the Irish can attest the power of that cause once it has gripped a nation's soul.
It is well to love liberty, for it demands much of those who would live by it. Liberty is not content to share mankind. John Boyle O'Reilly, who came to Boston by way of a penal colony in Western Australia, understood this as few men have. 'Freedom,' he wrote, 'is more than a resolution--he is not free who is free alone.'
To those who in our time have lost their freedom, or who through the ages have never won it, there is a converse to this message. No one--in the darkest cell, the remotest prison, under the most unyielding tyranny--is ever entirely lost in bondage while there are yet free men in the world.
As this be our faith, let it also be our pride--and to all who share it, I send the greetings of this day."
John F. Kennedy
President of the United States
March 17, 1962