About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s conversation with Neal Thompson about his new book The First Kennedys, which tells the story of Patrick and Bridget, who left Ireland following the Great Famine and launched the Kennedy dynasty in America.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up later this month on our YouTube channel.

On Monday, March 7, at 1 p.m., Megan Kate Nelson will discuss her new book, Saving Yellowstone, which gives the fascinating and complex historical context behind the national park’s establishment 150 years ago this month.

And on Tuesday, March 8, at 1 p.m., Mary Sarah Bilder will speak on her recent book, Female Genius. Bilder introduces us to Eliza Harriot, a pathbreaking female educator in the 1780s. She argued that women had equal capacity and deserved an equal education and political representation, and her University of Pennsylvania lecture was attended by George Washington.

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President John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the first United States President to address the Irish Parliament when he visited that country in June 1963. He declared that “no country contributed more to building my own than your sons and daughters. They came to our shores in a mixture of hope and agony, and I would not underrate the difficulties of their course once they arrived in the United States.”

One hundred and fifteen years before this historic visit, President Kennedy’s own great-grandparents had left Ireland for America in hopes of a better life. They endured hardships in Boston, their new home, but established a place for themselves and their children.

Their oldest son, Patrick Joseph, became the first American Kennedy elected to public office and set the family on a path culminating in the Presidency. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, part of the National Archives, holds numerous records of the Kennedy family, including the personal papers of Patrick J. Kennedy, JFK’s grandfather.

Our guest author today, Neal Thompson, made extensive use of these recently opened papers and other documentary resources in the library. We all look forward to hearing the story of the Kennedy family that he has put together.

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Neal Thompson is the author of five highly acclaimed books, including A Curious Man, Driving with the Devil, and Kickflip Boys. A former newspaper reporter, he has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Esquire, Outside, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, and Oprah.com.

Joining the author in conversation is author Neal Bascomb, a national award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of a number of books focused on inspiring stories of adventure or achievement. His work has been translated into over 15 languages, featured in several documentaries, and optioned for major film and television projects.

Now let’s hear from Neal Thompson and Neal Bascomb. Thank you for joining us today.