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President John F. Kennedy with Peter J. Crotty at left. Buffalo, New York October 14, 1962
JFK on 10/14/62 during visit to Buffalo
October 14, 1962 was one of the exciting and memorable days in the history of Buffalo’s Polonia. It was the day when President John F. Kennedy would be the most prominent visitor in the city’s annual Pulaski Day Parade. Already one of the marquee events of the year for Buffalo’s Polish-America community, Kennedy's appearance at the parade would draw over 200,000 along the parade route and conclude with a poignant speech targeted at communist oppression of Poland and other nations across the world.
Kennedy’s journey took him down Broadway, to Niagara Square were an additional 100,000 spectators waited his arrival. The President stopped the car numerous times to shake hands and wave to the throngs along the parade route.
In the audio files below, you will hear some of the most powerful voices of Polonia at the time: Henry Osinski, chairman of the Buffalo Pulaski Day celebration; Thaddeus J. Dulski, U.S. Representative from New York and honorary chairman of the Buffalo Pulaski Day celebration; Chester Kowal, Mayor of Buffalo.
More on Kennedy's visit in the near future. Do you have a story or a memory about the Pulaski Day Parade? Any pictures to share? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
courtesy of Conrad Kasprzyk
PART 1 5:07
The tape opens with an un-named voice giving a description of the Presidentís taking to the stage located on the steps of Buffalo City Hall entering Niagara Square. We can only assume that this voice is that of the person who recorded the original tape. The voice gets caught up in the excitement and lets out an exuberant "Oh Boy" as he gets his first clear view of Kennedy. As the remarks begin, the audio switches to the radio broadcast from WBEN with comments by newsman Lou Douglas. The first official to speak is Congressman Thaddeus J. Dulski who introduces Henry Osinski, Chairman of the Buffalo Pulaski Day Celebration and local organizer for the Kennedy campaigns. Following the invocation, a young girl from St. Stanislaus Parish presents the President with a Polish doll which is to be given to his daughter Caroline.
Part 2 continues with the doll presentation to the President. Mayor Chester Kowal presents Kennedy with a key to the city. Henry Osinski introduces remarks by Robert Morgenthau, Democratic candidate for Governor of New York. Osinski than has the honor of introducing President Kennedy to a crowd of over 100,000 gathered in Niagara Square.
President Kennedy takes to the podium and speaks about Poland's continued fight for freedom. He tells the crowd that he regarded Poland as temporarily in a Soviet prison but not lost forever. Weighing heavlity on his mind were the behind the scenes action taking place that would eventually be known as the Cuban Missle Crisis. Only days later would the JFK Presidency be faced with its biggest challenge to date and one of the most historic events in the Cold War. Full transcript of speech is provided below.
Mr. Chairman, Bob Morgenthau, my former colleague Thad Dulski, Mr. Mayor, Reverend Clergy, Mr. Crotty, former Congressmen, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
I want to express my thanks to all of you for being generous enough to invite me to come to an occasion which has significance to this city and this country, and the free world, because today, in remembering Pulaski, we remember all those millions from Poland and America and all around the globe who have fought and died, who fight now and live, in the cause of freedom. And that's what brings us here to this capital today.
Some years ago I visited Poland. I walked through the Cathedral of Czestochowa. I saw the Matka Bosca. I saw the sword of John Sobieski, who saved Christianity at the gates of Vienna. I saw a small scale, centuries-old model of a cathedral made by the hand of Thaddeus Kosciusko, who translated Polish commitment to liberty to assistance to our colonies. And I saw a small cross--the Cross of Pulaski.
One hundred and eighty-three years ago this month General Pulaski died. He was only 32. He was not an American. He had been on these shores for less than 2 years. He represented a different culture, a different language, a different way of life. But he had the same love of liberty as the people of this country, and, therefore, he was an American as much as he was a Pole.
This is the common theme that runs throughout our history--the millions of people who come to these shores to find freedom and who, as Americans, fight for freedom around the globe. Just a year ago I called attention to this commitment of freedom in a speech before the United Nations. Colonialism, then as now, was the key issue before that Assembly, and I said:
"There is no ignoring the fact that the tide of self-determination has not reached the Communist empire where a population far larger than that officially called 'dependent' lives under governments installed by foreign troops instead of free institutions-under a system which knows only one party and one belief--which suppresses free debate, and free elections, and free newspapers, and free books, and free trade unions--and which builds a wall to keep the truth a stranger, and its own citizens prisoners. Let us debate colonialism in full--and apply the principle of free choice and a plebiscite to every corner of the globe, Eastern Europe as well as Africa."
We pay tribute to Pulaski today because the truths for which he fought in 1779 are just as strong today. My own belief and observation shows me, and all of us, that there is no stronger reservoir of freedom in the world today than imprisoned Poland. They know the meaning of freedom as no one else can.
What policies can we pursue to permit what Thomas Jefferson called the disease of liberty to be catching behind the Iron Curtain? It's not enough to make speeches about liberation's. Our Government must pursue those policies which hold out eventual promise of freedom for the people who live behind the Iron Curtain.
First, we need economic flexibility. Too often our hands are tied by rigid statutory perspectives of the Communist world. Everything is seen in terms of black and white. Either nations are for us or against us; either completely under Soviet domination or completely free. But this is not the case. There are varying shades even within the Communist world. We must be able to seize the initiative when the opportunity arises, in Poland in particular, and in other countries as time goes on, behind the Iron Curtain. We must be ready to gradually, carefully, and peacefully work for closer relations by nourishing the seeds of liberty.
It is for this reason that I was disappointed by the amendment to the trade bill which specifically discriminates against Polish goods. The Polish people press their government for independence. Our policy should be to hold out a helping hand to them and not to shut the door.
Secondly, we must recognize that Soviet domination of these areas is temporary. We must never, in statement, treaty, declaration, or any other manner, recognize Soviet domination of Eastern Europe as permanent. We must never. Twice--in 1961 and '62--I have issued proclamations endorsed by this Congress to that effect.
Third, we must strengthen the economic and cultural ties that bind Poland to the West. The Polish language population, all of you, can be most effective in the ties that you maintain with the people of Poland. I am gratified by the number of students, officials, technicians, going from the United States to Poland and coming from Poland here to the United States. More than three times as many Americans on more than twice as many projects are going to Poland than ever before. Twice as many Poles, on twice as many projects, come here to the United States. This gives us a chance to show that we still remember Poland, that we have not forgotten them. "I was in prison and you visited me," is the best advice for the United States in 1962 in regard to the people of Poland.
Fourth, all of the ties which make Poland so much a part of the Western World, a part of the European World, must be strengthened. There is no easy solution to any of the problems which face us in Poland, in Asia, in Latin America, or around the world. But the people who count, the people who've been able to maintain their freedom, are the ones who have persevered, who have not gotten tired, who have not become fatigued, who have not given up. Poland, in its history, has been overrun, cut apart, occupied, partitioned, but it has remained free in the hearts of the Polish people, and as the old song says, "As long as you live, Poland lives"-"Jeszce Polska nie zginiela." That is still true, as it was in the history of Poland.
Some years ago I visited the Polish cemetery near Cassino, where thousands of Polish soldiers died far from their country in World War II for the independence of their country, and on that cemetery are written these words: "These Polish soldiers, for your freedom and theirs, have given their bodies to the soil of Italy, their hearts to Poland, and their souls to God."
We give our hearts and our bodies to the cause of freedom here in the United States, in Poland, and all around the globe. Thank you.
Thank you to the following individuals who assisted in this exhibit:
Norm Fisher - Discovered this audio in a box of tape that was to be auctioned off at Corpus Christi Parish and donated it to the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers.
Steve Cichon - Transferred the master tape to a digital format for preservation. Visit Steve's www.StaffAnnouncer.com for more historic audio.