If you wanted an antidote to the gloom and doom that is pervading Ireland and its economic woes in recent weeks the Irish America Magazine Business 100/Hall of Fame awards were it. Irish America is our sister publication.
Overall, two hundred leading businessmen and women from all over the United States came to the New York Yacht Club in midtown Manhattan to celebrate their common heritage.
Former Coca-Cola president Don Keough,(pictured), was the inaugural Hall of Fame award recipient.
The Business 100 keynote speaker was Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney-ABC.
There is no greater advocate of Ireland that Don Keough, now the current Chairman of investment firm Allen and Company.
He is also the unofficial chieftain of Irish America, a man whose influence rekindled the lost link between Notre Dame and Ireland.
At Notre Dame he created the best Irish Studies program in the world, and has been at the forefront of every major Irish American initiative on Ireland over the past two decades. I have no doubt that Coca Cola would not have settled in Ireland were he not at the helm of the company
Prime Ministers and presidents of Ireland have included Atlanta on their schedule in part so they can sit and hear from him. Recently,when the Irish government decided to open heir first new diplomatic mission in America in over 80 years it was no surprise that they choose Atlanta.
So when Don Keough talk people listen and they were listening intently at the luncheon.
He said it was time for Irish America to stand up and be counted and get behind Ireland and do their level best to help the economy recover.
Irish America needed to be cheerleaders for Ireland he explained,like never before.
Ireland had what few other countries had he pointed out, access to a worldwide Diaspora, millions of which were ready and willing and able to help. to What Keough told them was simple.
In what was a remarkable speech Don Keough spoke about being a captain of optimism, of helping to lead Ireland out of despond.
This too will pass, is what he was telling the Irish government and Irish America will stand with you while it does. At a time when Ireland is being assailed on all sides it was finally a message of hope and commitment.
He was in good company with that statement. Also present was Chuck Feeney, the billionaire philanthropist, Brian Moynihan CEO of Bank of America, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. In all 35 of the Fortune 100 companies were represented,all of them cheerleaders for ireland.
Sure, the talk was of the troubles in Ireland and the desperate times they suddenly find themselves in. But the feedback from Irish American business was pretty direct – don't look back, get on with it, we are with you.
What I love about business people is they just want to solve a problem not dwell on it or admire it as others often do.
There are massive recriminations underway in Ireland, obviously, over how the economy foundered so totally.
A prime example of moving on for me was former Irish Prime Minster Albert Reynolds who had a business background when he came to power. Reynolds tackled the Northern Irish situation which most ordinary politicians had run a mile from.
He cared little for the history or the grievances on both sides, he was looking for the pragmatic solution.
With a combination of bluster, compromise and business savvy he played a massive role in the resolution of it
You have the feeling that Irish America’s business leaders would feel the very same way today about Ireland’s crisis.
Anne Sweeney, the most powerful woman in television in America, possibly the world, addressed why those Irish roots were so important to her. She spoke of a letter from her grandparents to her parents when her mother was pregnant with her and the dreams that s they had for her.
That closeness of family saw them through hard times and Sweeney was saying that unique family bond of the Irish would help them cope with their latest crisis too.
We had gathered at a vital moment for the future of Ireland. Its' Diaspora remains one of Ireland’s greatest assets, as yet utterly underutilized. Perhaps its’ time has come
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