I was about three months old when JFK visited Ireland in June 1963 and just over eight months old when he was assassinated in Dallas Texas. For some reason, for many years I believed I remembered the day he died. I’ve no doubt now that I don’t or couldn’t but that was a real belief for me for much of my earlier life. Indeed, I’d have taken issue with anyone who doubted me. I’m sure that certainty of memory is hard for any of you to believe, especially if I’ve forgotten something I arranged to do for you!! The memory is a strange travelling companion!
It’s possible that the decades of talk about JFK have embedded his story in my memory and that there was something buried in me that would like to have remembered him as the young and vibrant president who, like Michelle Obama this week, “came home”. He stood in Galway and said if his eyesight was good enough and the sky clear enough he could “see Boston from here”!! There was something about shortening the distance in his way of being and his use of words.
He was frequently referred to as the “First Irish Catholic President of the United States”. He was also the last. Though other presidents, including the current resident of the West Wing, claim Irish heritage, JFK was the only Catholic ever to hold that office.
Seemingly, even at the time of his election, there was fear among many that, as a Catholic, he would be overly influenced by his faith. This may or may not have been the case. Equally it may or may not have been an issue for him but he seemed at home with his Catholicism.
Fifty years later it seems to be a liability, for some in our own country, to be a Catholic. I wonder will a three month old baby remember that in years to come?