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    Must Watch: JFK makes emotional visit to Ireland months before assassination

    11:54 AM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CBS) -- In the summer of 1963, president John F. Kennedy made an emotional visit to Ireland. JFK's ancestral homeland welcomed America's first Irish catholic president like a returning son.

    The emerald isle was in black and white back then. The color footage came from the JFK Library. But the Irish broadcaster RTE was barely a year old when a sitting American President, and an Irish one to boot, came to visit. A commentator at the time of his visit said on air, "Here comes a ticker tape, this looks more like Wall Street. This is something so typical of presidential parades in the United State."

    For President Kennedy, it must have felt more like a homecoming parade. JFK said at the time, "I'm glad to be here, it took 115 years to make this trip and 6,000 miles and three generations."

    It was from the port town of New Ross that Kennedy's great grandfather fled the famine and boarded a ship bound for America. JFK said, "If he had not left I'd be working over at the Albatross Company."

    There were official engagements like laying a wreath at a Dublin War Memorial and addressing Irish politicians. But the highlight of the visit came when he dropped in on his cousin, Mary Ryan who held a garden party in the grounds of the family home.

    A commentator at the time said, "Local children formed a guard of honor between the house and the landing field, waiting impatiently with minds a little confused, perhaps, by the strange sight of Mrs. Ryan's cousin, who visited her, and brought a helicopter who was the president of the United States and was Mrs. Ryan's cousin."

    Irish author Ryan Tubridy, describes how the president beckoned stunned villagers to gather near. He says, "He gets out, and he looks at them, and he says 'Come here, don't be hiding over there.' And they go, 'You sure?' and they go by one, by two, by three. And then they swarm in. It's all very 'touchy-feely.'"

    But President of the Free World or not, when you're in Mary Ryan's house, you stick to Mary Ryan's protocol. Tubridy says, "Mary Ryan is like all of our grannies and soon as she met him coming in, she slapped a massive kiss on his cheek and said welcome. Now you don't go round kissing the president of the United States.'

    At the end of his four day visit, the President told all those who welcomed him to his ancestral home that his door was open too. JFK said, "About 50 years ago an Irishman from New Ross traveled down to Washington with his family and wanted to tell his neighbors how well he was doing. He had his picture taken in front of the White House and said 'This is our summer home, come and see us.' Well, it's our home also in the winter and I hope you will come and see us. Thank you."

    The cadets, who so had impressed President Kennedy during his visit, did go to Washington that winter. They were there by his graveside.

     

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