Century of leader JFK celebrated
THE centennial of President John F Kennedy's birth was remembered with an action packed day of events in New Ross and Dunganstown on Monday last.
More than 350 people attended the main event at the John F Kennedy Arboretum, 100 years on practically to the hour when the late President was born in Brookline, Massachussets.
The remembrance events began with a tree planting ceremony at Kennedy College in New Ross.
Afterwards around 200 people attended a screening of Down Wexford Way, an amateur and professional film about President Kennedy's visit to the county, featuring a wide range of Wexford-based material dating from 1902.
Footage included film from early British cinema pioneers filmed on the streets of Wexford town, a rarely seen film of New Ross in 1947, a host of lively stories from the Amharc Éireann newsreels including a Fleadh Ceoil in Gorey, the visit of General 'Ike' Eisenhower, and a surprise win for Wexford in the 1960 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.
Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD, along with the Chairman of Wexford County Council and Lt Col Andrew Martin, US Embassy attended a special function at the arboretum, where a Centennial Memorial Concert performed by the Defence forces military band of the 1st Brigade took place in the afternoon, along with a Military Honour Guard and Salute and a wreath laying ceremony which saw Lt Col Martin, Deputy Kehoe and Cllr Kavanagh lay wreaths.
Commenting on the occasion, Minister Kehoe said: 'As President of the United States, John F Kennedy offered a new sense of purpose and hope to the American people. He inspired a generation to help themselves and to help others. While his term in office was all too short he was responsible for some extraordinary achievements, setting new directions for civil rights, international diplomacy and public service.'
Deputy Kehoe said: 'His visit to the Kennedy Homestead in the months before his untimely death reflected the importance which he placed on family and heritage. It is a testament to the Kennedy family and the people of Wexford that this connection not only endures, but continues to grow in strength, particularly in this centennial year. In addressing those assembled at Redmond Place in 1963 John F Kennedy spoke of the courage displayed by the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. So impressed were the Kennedy's by the Irish Cadets upon their visit to Wexford that a special invitation issued to the 37th Cadet Class of the Irish Defence Forces to attend his funeral. As Minister with Responsibility for Defence and as a Wexford man, I am pleased that this association continues to this very day.'
Deputy Kehoe said the beautiful park and arboretum was opened by Eamon de Valera in 1968 in honour of John F. Kennedy. 'Since then it has become an important focal point for those interested in the events of his life. And while it attracts praise from far and wide, it is the people of Wexford who reap the greatest benefit from this fantastic amenity.'
He recognised the work of Wexford County Council and the Office of Public Works for their ongoing commitment to the park and the arboretum.
'In 2013 I was privileged to speak at the graveside of the President prior to a flame, taken from Arlington Cemetery, arriving in New Ross. The journey of the flame symbolised the emigration of the Kennedy family and of millions of other Irish people. On that occasion I remarked on the message of hope which the President brought to our shores. He represented the ultimate emigrant success story. His visit changed how we looked at ourselves and how we were regarded on the international stage.'
Cllr Kavanagh said: 'Today is a special day for Wexford, Ireland and our American cousins, the 100th anniversary of the birth of the 35th President of America, Wexfordman, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.'
Cllr Kavanagh said remembrance events were also taking place in Boston through the county's partnership with The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He said: 'Today, we rightly honour the youngest president to ever be elected in the United States. In that role President Kennedy saw his position as pivotal in order to motivate commitments for constructive change not only for America, but around the world. He aimed to move the world toward a more peaceful future, through legislation but also through inspiration. He truly inspired a generation to work towards making humanity better and this is something we need to continue through his legacy now more than ever.'
President Kennedy's great-grandfather left his home place in Dunganstown in New Ross for the shores of Boston in 1848 and his legacy was hailed.
'President John F Kennedy relished his Irish heritage and during his historic visit to Ireland in June 1963, he remarked upon that to the people of New Ross. In 2013 on the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's official visit to Ireland, 50 members of the Kennedy family including his daughter Caroline Kennedy and his sister Jean Kennedy Smith returned to the very spot to honour his legacy. Wexford continues to honour its most famous family. Patrick Grennan, a member of the Kennedy clan, runs the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown.'
Describing President Kennedy as an inclusive president, he said he was a president not only for America, but for the free world. He preached co-operation and support for all nations that aspired to liberty and freedom. 'I hope that the ideals and dreams championed by our most famous Wexfordman continue to inspire people throughout the world today.'