Litterae ex Domus Alba

John Kennedy

In the second year Latin textbook that we used in high school, there appeared this modern use of the eloquent Latin language:

Eight girls at New York’s Dalton School had translated President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address of 1961 into Latin and sent their translation to the White House. This is the reply they received from the President.

Johannes Filiusgeraldi Kennediensis, Respublicae Praesidens, puellis Scholae Daltoni salutem plurimam dicit.

Eximiae puellae, litteram vestram, in qua de interpretatine orationis meae mentionem facitis, accepi, eandemque interpretationem percurri. Multaque in ea me placent et delectant. Cognitionem linguae Latinae et artem eloquentiamque scribendi vehementer admiror. Stilus interpretationis vestrae mihi laudabilis probandusque videtur; habet enim et copiam et varietatem.

Quid a vobis fiert potest, non probatu dignum? Gratias vobis ago, cum ob vestram benevolentiam, tum quod laboribus vestris efficitur ut orationem meam linguam Latinam loquentem nunc legere possem.

Valete optime! Ex urbe Washingtonii, die XXVII Maii anno domini MDCCCCLXI.

Here is my translation (after all this time I had to look up practically every other word):

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the Republic, sends many greetings to the girls of the Dalton School.

Exceptional girls, I received your letter, in which you translated my speech, and I am running through the same interpretation. Many things in it please and delight me. I greatly admire your knowledge of the Latin language and your skill and eloquence in writing it. It seems to me that your style of interpretation is praiseworthy and proving; it has in fact both abundance and variety.

What can you do that is not deserving of approbation? Thank you, both on account of your kindness, and that my speech can now be read in the eloquent Latin language which was accomplished by your efforts.

My very best wishes! From the city of Washington, on the 27th day of May in the year of the lord 1961.

And here is the Google translation. Notice that it translates a few things much more freely and idiomatically that I did (well, it has more experience!) but it skips an entire sentence and it gets the year wrong!

Johannes Filiusgeraldi Kennedy, President of the Republic, sends his best regards to the girls of the Dalton School.

Dear girls, I received your letter in which you mention the interpretation of my speech, and I am going through the same interpretation. And there are many things in it that please and amuse me. I greatly admire the knowledge of the Latin language and the art of eloquence and writing. The style of your interpretation seems to me to be commendable and to be approved; for it has both plenty and variety.

I thank you for your kindness, and because of your efforts that I could now read my prayer speaking the Latin language.

Goodbye! From the city of Washington, the 27th day of May in the year 1861.

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