"All of us of Irish descent are bound together by the ties that come from a common experience; experience which may exist only in memories and in legend, but which is real enough to those who possess it." - John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, America's first Irish-Catholic president, was a son of two families whose roots both stretched back to Ireland. The Fitzgeralds hailed from the rural country Limerick village of Bruff, while the Kennedys migrated from Dunganstown in Country Wexford.
President Kennedy cherished his Irish heritage. In June of 1963, accompanied by his sisters Eunice and Jean, President Kennedy paid an historic visit to his ancestral homeland in County Wexford, Ireland. Hundreds of Irish citizens cheered the president’s arrival in Wexford, where JFK met with fifteen of his cousins. During his trip, President Kennedy remarked to the cheering crowds:
When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him 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.
During his four days abroad, President Kennedy joined with Irish President Eamonn de Valera to form The American Irish Foundation. The mission of this organization was to foster connections between Americans of Irish descent and the country of their ancestry. On St. Patrick's Day 1987, The Ireland Fund and the American Irish Foundation merged at a White House ceremony to form The American Ireland Fund.
Today, the American Ireland Fund, part of the Ireland Funds network, is a nonprofit organization that assists the island of Ireland and Irish-related causes in the United States. The Ireland Funds currently operate in 12 countries and have raised over $380 million for more than 1,200 outstanding organizations. Their mission is to be the largest network of friends of Ireland dedicated to supporting programs of education, peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, and community development throughout the island of Ireland.