It is a genuine pleasure to be here this evening to join with you in tribute to our honored guest. Her eloquence, which is internationally famous, is a pleasure which we rarely enjoy and which I will not postpone for the purpose of any remarks on my own.
But I do want to say a few words about our distinguished lady guest, and the high esteem in which she is held by all of us in Washington. Her eloquent and determined role as spokesman for Israel in the community of nations, her persuasive and charming personality, and her extraordinary and heroic career all serve as an inspirational and forceful example to every one of us, regardless of our position, our nationality or our religious faith.
In many ways, it has always seemed to me, the story of Mrs. Golda Meir is the story of modern Israel. She was, as you know, born in Russia and raised in this country, where she taught in the public schools of Milwaukee. She migrated with her late husband to a primitive pioneer settlement in Palestine some 25 years ago, where she raised poultry by day and studied Hebrew and Arabic by night. And as her new homeland grew from these humble, impoverished pioneer beginnings, into a courageous and respected independent nation, so did Golda Meir rise from that impoverished poultry farm to become one of the greatest, most courageous, most respected diplomats of our time. She was elected to the Women's Labor Council, and active in other labor and business affairs of her nation, including recently a cabinet post as Minister of Labor; and she served as Israel's first Minister to Moscow, Chief Delegate to the United Nations, Defense Administrator and now finally Foreign Minister. But, just as Israel in the midst of its international crisis has never neglected its domestic affairs, the needs of her people and the development of her economy, so has Mrs. Meir continued to devote herself to her home and her family despite her rise in public fame and responsibilities.
I know that those gathered at this Dinner, in much the same spirit, will not permit the complexities of the present turmoil in the Middle East to lessen their concern for the people of Israel. Whatever may be the background, the difficulties, the merits or the eventual outcome of those conflicts, we know that the State of Israel will remain -- and we know that assistance from her friends in this country is still desperately needed. The nation will continue to grow; and the exiles from all over the world will continue to gather. Only last week, when the nations of the world were asked to offer a haven for the Hungarian refugees from Communist tyranny, there was a gratifying response; the United States, for example, announced its willingness to take five thousand; Australia three thousand; Britain two and one-half thousand; but Israel, little Israel, announced that she would take not one thousand or five thousand or ten thousand but all who wanted to come.
I am happy to join with you tonight in that spirit of unselfish giving which has always characterized the State of Israel, the Jewish people and our illustrious speaker; and I share your anticipation and pleasure at her presence here tonight.
Speech source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12. Speeches and the Press. Box 896, Folder: "Dinner honoring Mrs. Golda Meir, Boston, Massachusetts, 25 November 1956".