Published: November 2013
After nine months of lobbying by local business leaders and other Boston College allies, notably Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. ’36, President John F. Kennedy arrived on the Heights on April 20, 1963, to address the University’s Centennial Convocation, an assembly that capped five weeks of lectures, performances, panel discussions, and receptions. University President Michael P. Walsh, SJ, introduced Kennedy to an Alumni Stadium audience of 30,000 that included elected officials, church leaders, and representatives from 294 colleges and universities. Harvard president Nathan Pusey, Georgetown president Edward B. Bunn, SJ, and British economist Barbara Ward Jackson were present to receive honorary degrees. (Kennedy was given his honorary degree in 1956 when, as a senator, he delivered the Commencement address.) Despite the pageantry, the scene had an informality and intimacy that are unthinkable today—with two students scrambling on the bleachers behind Kennedy to find a seat close to the president (43 seconds into the video) and Kennedy chuckling at his joke about his Boston accent.
View Kennedy’s typed speech with his handwritten changes.