President John F. Kennedy was honored as a returning son during his visit to Ireland in June 1963. He is pictured here receiving a cup of tea from his distant cousin Mary Ann Ryan as her mother, Mrs. Mary Ryan, looks on outside the Kennedy ancestral homestead in Duganstown, Ireland.

The president’s tea toast that day was “We want to drink a cup of tea to all the Kennedys who went to the United States and all the Kennedys who stayed.”

One of President Kennedy’s favorite recollections of the trip was a wreath-laying ceremony at Arbor Hill Cemetery where the 37th cadet class performed a drill, one they presented at funerals and special remembrances. The precision and solemnity of the cadets had a lasting effect upon the president. “That was the finest honor guard I’ve ever seen,” he told the lieutenant in charge.

He later asked if they might make a film of the ceremony for him to share with his family at home. The cadets practiced four weeks before filming the drill. They wanted it to be perfect for the American president.

Mrs. Kennedy knew what an impact the cadets had upon her husband’s visit. Just five months later, on November 23, the president’s widow requested the cadets stand guard as the president’s body was placed into the grave at Arlington.

Silently, while the world watched, the young cadets performed their well-honed drill and gave their Irish brother his final salute. They would forever be known as “Kennedy’s Cadets.”


This photo is from the Benjamin Press archives and included in A Social History of Tea.

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