Unveiling of the resored plaque celebrating the 50th Anniversary of US President John F. Kennedy's visit to the Bahamas in Decem
Nassau, Bahamas – Once again, on January 19, 2013, Charge d’Affaires John Dinkleman of the US Embassy in Nassau joined Bahamian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Perry Christie and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Honourable Fred Mitchell for the unveiling of a historic marker, this time with a Kennedy member present.
No stranger to The Bahamas, the visit of Robert F Kennedy Jr, nephew of the late US President John F Kennedy (JFK) commemorated the 50th anniversary of JFK’s historical trip to The Bahamas in December 1962 where the Nassau Agreement was signed. Also accompanying him was his girlfriend Cheryl Hines, a well known US Actress and producer.
The observance took place at “Conference Corner” which is now the intersection of Blake Road and West Bay Street where President Kennedy, after signing the historic Nassau Agreement, had planted a commemorative tree on December 22, 1962 with Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan of the UK and John Diefenbaker of Canada at his side. Also important at that time, John F. Kennedy had held talks with local activists regarding democracy and The Bahamas becoming a sovereign nation.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr's uncle, the only sitting US President at the time to visit The Bahamas had met over 3 days with Harold Macmillan the Prime Minister of the UK for a series of talks, just two months after the Cuban missile crisis when it was revealed that the Soviet Union's leader, Nikita Khrushchev, had set up nuclear missile bases on America's doorstep. The Treaty had been negotiated between the US and UK leaders where the Agreement enabled the UK Polaris program. It was understood that the British Government would construct the submarines and develop warheads for the Polaris missiles with technical support from the US and in return, the US was able to lease a nuclear submarine base in Glasgow. The deal had been described in the US press as a landmark in military and political development in the Western world. (Source: US Embassy Nassau’s website and BBC News).
"President John F. Kennedy has been lauded for his visionary leadership both in the USA and on the international stage,” said Prime Minister Christie. “His visit had an overt militaristic tone with the discussion being the establishment of a nuclear missile system with the British to counter the mounting Soviet threat. Fifty years later we can say that his strong stance was one of the pillars of lasting peace among nuclear powers. This peace,” he continued, “Though fragile, formed the foundation of social, economic and intellectual development throughout the world, leading to enhanced opportunities for all peoples in the Western world, and the spread of democracy throughout the Americas.”
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke about details of his family’s dealings with the Cuban Missile Crisis and his uncle’s view on sovereignty in The Bahamas saying, “PM Harold Macmillan had a strong personal commitment to international peace and had spoken to President Kennedy about the morality of any nation using nuclear weapons or possessing them. He also went on to state that while President Kennedy was in The Bahamas he met with activists, something that Harold Macmillian did not want him to do. My uncle (JFK) wanted majority rule in The Bahamas and he was a strong advocate for nationalism and self rule by the local population. I am proud that he had those meeting while he was here. He understood that people wanted democratic rule.”
Prime Minister Christie asked, “John F. Kennedy be remembered for the advancement of civil rights as he continually fought against discrimination and inequality among peoples, and indeed this was a remarkable stance for a President during that period.” The PM also acknowledged Martin Luther King Jr.
“I pay my respects to them both and to their life's work. In this our fortieth anniversary of our Independence, I am pleased to be able to attend this occasion.”
During Kennedy’s visit to Nassau, he will speak on “Climate Change and Its Effects on Small Island Developing States” at the College of The Bahamas. A recent press release stated: “Robert F. Kennedy’s reputation as a staunch defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. He was named one of Time magazine's “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The Group's achievement helped spawn more than 130 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe.” Kennedy has worked on many causes outside of North America, in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
The Prime Minister thanked Mr Kennedy for his work in The Bahamas and his involvement in the fight to "Save Clifton Cay" from commercial degradation; a battle that started back in 2001. Considered one of the most sacred sites on the island, the creation of a historic recreational site and a park for Bahamians and visitors, as well as securing Jaws Beach to have it available for everyone, was realized.
The unveiling of the plaques at “Conference Corner” is a historic marker for current and future generations. The original tree planting 50 years ago by US President John F. Kennedy, PM Diefenbaker of Canada and PM Macmillan of the UK, has since been replaced with 3 new Ficus trees in December 2012. “May these trees planted here just one month ago (at the original ceremony) along with these plaques, continue to remind us of the significance of the visit of President John F Kennedy, his spirit, vision, and his legacy,” said Prime Minister Christie.