THE prospect of Barack Obama visiting Wexford to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's trip to Ireland is a chance to pay tribute to a revered predecessor at one of the most memorable times of his presidency.
Every account of JFK's visit in late June of 1963 brims with his unalloyed pleasure and delight as he went around his ancestral land to occasions formal and informal. The Irish people, including his own relatives, shared the joy, and for four days the burdens of his office seemed more than an ocean away.
Observers of the US presidency might question a second visit by Mr Obama to Ireland so soon after his first in 2011. It's not as though the trip is being scheduled with deliberate political motivation or with re-election in mind.
The symbolism, though, is significant. Honouring Kennedy, then-youthful and commanding the world's attention, is a way of recognising what he meant to the office and to his nation at a key moment.
Mr Obama and his White House advisers understand that the association with Kennedy on his triumphant trip to Ireland brings a vitality to a historical moment.
In addition, all reports of Mr Obama's 2011 visit noted how much at home he felt during his time in Dublin and Moneygall.
Commentary about Mr Obama's first term emphasises his reluctance to reach out to members of Congress in pursuing his agenda. He, however, knew the personal and political risk that the late Senator Ted Kennedy took in supporting his presidential candidacy in 2008 over that of Hillary Clinton.
Former president Bill Clinton, in fact, tried to do whatever he could to block the endorsement.
By honouring the senator's brother in Ireland he helps to acknowledge a debt to the premier Irish-American family in the US, and he positions himself within the Democratic Party in a definite way. Call it gild by association, if you will.
Though small geographically and in terms of population, Ireland holds a special place for US presidents. Twenty-two have claimed Irish ancestry of varying strength, with Mr Obama just the latest in that line.
Those roots extend across the Atlantic, but also establish a connection that pull them back.
For John F Kennedy, the 1963 homecoming was, in its way, the fulfilment of the American dream for himself and millions of his fellow citizens. "When my great-grandfather came to America and my grandfather was growing up, the Irish Americans had a song about the familiar sign which went, 'No Irish Need Apply'," Kennedy said during his visit.
Then, he went on to note: "In 1960, the American people took the sign down from the last place it was still hanging – the door of the White House."
With his election in 2008 and re-election last year, Mr Obama removed another barrier, in this case for an African American (with some Irish blood) to become president.
If Mr Obama does, indeed, recognise Kennedy's 1963 visit, he will make a larger statement about Ireland – and also about the nation he leads.
Robert Schmuhl is professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame.