Caroline Kennedy met with other Kennedy family members and Irish officials this weekend to celebrate “JFK 50: The Homecoming” in County Wexford, Ireland. It was the 50th anniversary of popular 1960s era President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 visit to the homeland of his ancestors.
According to a CBS News report, Patrick Kennedy fled the island nation for Boston during the devastating 1848 Irish potato famine. John Kennedy returned to Ireland in triumph as the United States’ first Irish-Catholic president.
President Barack Obama, the first US African-American president, also has Irish heritage on his mother’s side. However, JFK remains the nation’s only Irish-Catholic president.
Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s only living child, and Jean Kennedy Smith, his only living sister, joined Irish Prime Minister Enda to light an eternal flame that came from President Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. The emotional ceremony involved carrying the flame by air from Arlington to an Irish navy vessel which then brought the flame up the river to the dock in New Ross.
Caroline Kennedy’s 20-year-old son Jack also spoke. He pointed out that Ireland’s inspiring journey from a nation wracked by deadly famine to its current status as one of the world’s most influential nations offers hope even to America, despite some of the United States’ well-publicized current problems.
According to a Daily Mail report, he dismissed the negativity of cynics and skeptics. “The glow from this flame can truly light the world,” the young man asserted.
The Irish Times talked to locals in the Kennedy home town of Dunganstown, where a new Kennedy visitor center was rededicated as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. The people gathered there were enthusiastic, with older people offering fond memories of JFK’s 1963 visit.
“We treasure our relationship with Ireland,” Caroline Kennedy told the crowd.