Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 3/24/2009 4:01 PM EDT
Who is Jonathan Windy Boy and why was he invited to the White House on St.Patrick’s night when a large numbers of leaders in the Irish American community were not?
Jonathan is a Cherokee Indian from Montana who is a keen advocate of grass dancing, according to his profile, a form of American Indian dancing that is very popular. He was also very helpful, as a state senator, to the victory campaign of Barack Obama in that state.
Jonathan was definitely there on the night, his long dark hair and Indian-style dress made him stand out among the staid collars and ties and dresses of all the others.
The reality is though that Jonathan tells us a lot about where Barack Obama’s political instincts are at.
While hundreds literally, of Irish American leaders from coast to coast were fuming at their lack of invitation to the biggest Irish invite of all, Jonathan Windy Boy was able to sweep in.
Perhaps he even passed that prominent Irish American figure who was so upset at not being invited that he lingered outside hoping that someone would invite him in.
Jonathan Windy Boy probably had no idea of the importance of the evening for those who were locked out –and those who literally screamed the house down with the White House when they discovered they were not on the initial invitation list .
As far as he was concerned he had done the business for Obama and had been rewarded. Next time in Montana no doubt Jonathan Windy Boy – who is interviewed on You Tube by Shawn White Wolf if you want to learn more about him at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6SdqzEoWqE will be doubly grateful for attending the White House at the behest of Obama.
A Shift in Power
A careful analysis of the crowd at the Obama White House shows the shifting power at the center of the new administration when it comes to Irish America.
What is clear is that politics and re-election is king with the new Obama people and that community leaders who have no obvious ties to the president are not going to make the cut.
It’s a fairly straightforward, “Chicago style” determination by the president and his staff who are clearly lacking in any sentimentality about who they think will help them in the future and who wont
By my count there were only 79 bona fide members of the active Irish American community among the crowd of 300 or so. I suspect that would be a number that is greatly down from the old days.
Indeed, it was also clear that a large number of names were not even Irish, though obviously some may have been through marriage. I counted 122 in that category out of the three hundred
The geographic base has shifted also of course. When did you think you would see a White House crowd of Irish where only five members with addresses from Massachusetts were present?
Hardly surprising that in terms of the states that the majority of invitees, thirty were from Illinois , while only 20 came from New York.
The numbers of Irish from Ireland individuals, North and South measured around thirty in total, a fair enough ratio given that the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Northern Ireland leaders were there.
It was clearly an exceedingly tough ticket for people from Ireland also, a far cry from the good old days when Bertie Ahern would arrive with a large retinue in tow.
Largest Single Group
The largest single group? That would be politicians, or White House aides, numbering about 85 according to my count.
They included the whole gamut from Vice President Biden to the mayor of Danville, Connecticut to Jonathan Windy Boy from Montana. Given the importance of local as well as regional politicians to the Obama grassroots drive for the White House that is hardly surprising.
All in all about 85 politicians were on the a list for the Obama White House bash – almost one third of all who attended.
It certainly shows that Obama is clearly directing his energies into storing up the support he enjoyed in November into follow up backing n 2008.
In that respect, elected politicians beholding to him make a lot more sense than community activists who may or may not get involved.
If you had skin in the game politically and were in any way tied to the Obama presidency you were invited to the White House on St. Patricks Day is the clear message.
As for the non-connected political activists who may have spent a lifetime creating the networks of the Irish American community? --- well too bad for 2009. Then there’s always next year.
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned