BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Fifty-one years ago Monday there was a special visitor in Buffalo. President John F. Kennedy was here for Pulaski Day. President Kennedy came to the annual Pulaski Day Parade to talk about the general’s fight for freedom in America.
Buffalo native Joan Miller celebrated her 16th birthday that day, and vividly remembers it. Miller described the experience, saying, “There were many, many people. Just throngs of people.”
The president’s speech was timely. As later that day, the United States and Russia would be pushed to the brink of a battle. It was the height of the Cold War, 1962, when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy came to Buffalo to remember American and Polish hero, General Casimir Pulaski.
Kennedy said, “Today in remembering Polaski, we remember all the 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.”
At the same time, John F Kennedy High School in Cheektowaga was being built. The President was supposed to go to the school to commemorate the opening of the high school, the first to be named after him. But unfortunately, he never made it here; he had urgent matters in Washington. October 14th, 1962 was also the first of the 14-day-long Cuban Missile Crisis. Poland was also under communist rule at the time.
At the annual Pulaski Day parade, the president talked about how Pulaski, who was an immigrant, fought for the freedom in America that was needed in Pulaski’s native Poland.
Kennedy said, “183 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 two years. He represented another 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.”
“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.”
Poland communism ties did end 27 years after President Kennedy came to Buffalo. General Pulaski is one of only seven people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship.
Courier Express Headline from the next day said an estimated 400,000 people came to hear President Kennedy speak this day, 51 years ago.
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