Ireland did a good job of figuring out the pickle they were in 30 years ago and said, "Let’s develop some capabilities, some industries." And they were able to do that. Now the question is, it’s a never ending reinvention, so whether it’s Ireland, the northeastern United States after the manufacturing moved years ago, Michigan after the auto industry changes – you just got to keep reinventing yourself. So I think the challenge for Ireland is, what’s next? The country has got a lot of great resources, a lot of great people, it’s a question of how do you keep reinventing yourself to stay ahead of the game, because these things always naturally have an ebb and flow to them.
How do we reinvent ourselves here?
In the United States? I think it’s around the types of things that made the country very strong. We have a great natural talent base around industries, financial services being one of them, but also technology, healthcare and different kinds of manufacturing businesses. The energy infrastructure is an area where we should be at the leading edge of the world. We’re still on the cutting edge in terms of technology, medicine and other scientific research in biology, chemistry, etc. We just have to keep investing in our educational systems and our capabilities to be inventive.
Many of America’s greatest inventors were immigrants like your family and mine. Right now America has closed the door on immigration. Where do you stand on that?
I think we have to make sure that we [as a country] tap into the talents from people all around the world – that’s what got us where we are today. We as a company believe in that. I’ve been involved at Brown University and other places where you see the amount of talent that comes from other places. There was a young woman who spoke to us who came from Belarus. Think of that talent around the world which can, and wants to, come here to learn and help our country grow and prosper. I think that’s consistent with how we got here.
Is there anything in your Irish makeup, any particular Irish characteristics that maybe helped you to get to where you’re at?
I think we Irish try to have a good sense of humor, and I think you’ve got to be serious but not take yourself too seriously. I think also that no matter how many generations removed, there’s a little bit of a chip on the shoulder, and that you always [feel you must] prove yourself. There’s no sense of entitlement, no sense of placement, it’s all a sense of you’ve got to go out and work hard to get there. It doesn’t all break your way all the time, so you’ve got to just power through it. I think that’s deeply embedded in the culture of the Irish, including the Irish that went around the world, not only to this country but other countries. There’s a common trait, the people all had a sense that they needed to keep pushing forward, and they were never sort of settled. And I think that if you look across generations and look across people and meet people in the current generation in Ireland you see that trait’s still there.