Kennedy letter MS5958_001_LO (3)50 years ago, in the June of 1963, Ireland welcomed President John F Kennedy back to his ancestral home. Everywhere he went Kennedy was greeted by adoring crowds, and the feeling appears to have been mutual.

On the evening of the 28 June 1963 the President was escorted to St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle to be awarded honorary doctorates in law from both Trinity College Dublin (Dublin University), and the National University of Ireland. In his speech to the dignitaries gathered at the civic reception he praised the quality of Irish universities as well as quipping ‘I now feel equally part of both, and if they ever have a game of Gaelic football or hurling, I shall cheer for Trinity and pray for National.’

Kennedy wrote many thank you notes in the weeks following his return to the US, each one warm and effusive about his trip. In this letter, written to the Chancellor of Dublin University, he conveys how the ‘impressive’ degree conferral ceremony ‘meant a great deal to me and proved to be one of the highlights of my visit to Ireland’.

The letter was written on 5 August 1963, a busy day for the President, for it was the same day that the US, the UK and the Soviet Union signed the limited nuclear test ban treaty after 8 years of difficult negotiations.

The letter is one of a small collection of M&ARL items connected to Kennedy’s honorary degree, along with Trinity College’s copy of the degree certificate and a photograph of the occasion.

Kennedy photo MS4881_002_LO (3)

Kennedy degree cert MS4881_001_LO (3)

The John F Kennedy Presidential Library holds a similar photograph taken from a different angle as well as an audio recording of the President’s speech.

Estelle Gittins