On this day: JFK is inaugurated in 1961
Irish History

On this day: JFK is inaugurated in 1961

ON THIS day in 1961, John F Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States of America.

With prominent ties to Ireland, Kennedy was hailed in Ireland due to his Catholic faith and his ties to New Ross Co Wexford where his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy came from.

He had narrowly defeated Richard Nixon in the presidential election of 1960 to become the youngest person elected to the office at age 43 and was the first US president to have been born in the 20th century.

On the day of his inauguration, Kennedy went to morning mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, Washington DC, where Cardinal Richard Cushing gave the invocation of the inaugural which lasted for 12 minutes.

Poet Robert Frost also composed a new poem titled 'Dedication' for the ceremony, however the glare of the sun and snow on the day prevented him from reading his papers. Instead, he read aloud 'The Gift Outright' which he knew from memory.

This was the first time a poem was read at a presidential inauguration - something that has since been repeated at Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden' ceremonies.

In his 1366-word inaugural address, Kennedy spoke of the goals of maintaining peaceful international relations and representing the US as a strong global force.

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty," he said.

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it - and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

Those present at the inauguration included Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Brendan Behan, Mark Rothko, and fashion icon and future Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.

During his short-lived presidency, JFK also visited Ireland.

On 27 June 1963, he spoke to the people of New Ross:

"When my great grandfather left here to become a copper in East Boston, he carried nothing with his except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty.

"I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance."

Just five months later on 22 November, Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.

Watch his full inaugural address below:


(Additional information sourced from 'This Day in Irish History' by Joe Coffey, available now in bookstores)