As many of you know I was deeply impressed with Obama's speech at the White House reception for the Irish Prime Minister last night. Below is the relevant section I referred to in my earlier blog which I think captures the extraordinary impact of his words.
"And in the wake of a Great Hunger, that migration intensified. And the Irish carved out a place for themselves in our nation’s story -– America and Ireland, our brawn and our blood, side by side in the making and remaking of this nation; pulling it westward, pushing it skyward, moving it forward -– even if it was a nation that was not always as welcoming as it could be.
"But with hard work and toughness and loyalty and faith, the Irish persevered. And in the process they secured the future for generations of Irish-Americans free to live their lives as they will -– and today, free to argue openly and proudly about who is more Irish than whom.
"So it can be easy to forget that there was a time when “No Irish Need Apply.” Particularly when it was half a century ago this year that John F. Kennedy walked through the doors of this house as the first Irish Catholic President of the United States.
"One person who never forgot this history -– someone who frequently recalled his grandfather’s vivid stories of those days; who through his office window could see the Boston Harbor steps where his eight Irish grandparents first set foot in America –- was the President’s youngest brother and our dear friend, Ted Kennedy.
"He knew, as we do, that our nation is infinitely richer for not only the contributions of the Irish throughout history -– but the contributions of people from around the world. That’s why I’m pleased that there’s bipartisan progress being made in an area that I know was close to his big heart -– and that's fixing our broken immigration system. And that’s why my own commitment to comprehensive immigration reform remains unwavering.
"In this and every other battle for progress, Ted was a tireless warrior. And I know that we could use him this week. I am so glad that we’re joined tonight by his wife Vicki; his daughter, Kara; his son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy; and his sister-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, as well as a whole bunch of nieces and nephews. Please give them a big round of applause.
"Both of our nations are down one friend, a champion, and peacemaker. But it wouldn’t be Irish mourning without some undercurrent of joy. So while Teddy’s laughter may not shake the walls of this house tonight, as it did so many times over the past half-century, ours will not be diminished. While his singing may not fill these rooms, I suspect that won’t stop some of you from trying.You don't have to try, though -- that's why we brought in the entertainment.
"This is rightly a day for celebration and good cheer between America and one of her oldest friends -– and it’s a partnership that extends to our earliest days as a Republic. So before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, let me leave you with all the words from those early days that speak to why this has been such an incredible relationship between our two countries. These are words spoken by the father of our country, George Washington:
"When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin’s generous sons? Ireland, thou friend of my country in my country’s most friendless days, much injured, much enduring land, accept this poor tribute from one who esteems thy worth, and mourns thy desolation. May the God of Heaven, in His justice and mercy, grant thee more prosperous fortunes, and in His own time, cause the sun of Freedom to shed its benign radiance on the Emerald Isle.”
"To all of you from near and far, and over all the years and tests ahead, may America and Ireland forever brilliantly sustain one another’s sons and daughters.
"And with that, to our guest, the Taoiseach of Ireland, on behalf of the American people we want to thank you for your presence here. We are proud to call you a friend this day and every day. And we are looking forward to planting this little piece of Ireland in the garden here in the White House."
Story / Barack and Michelle Obama win over the Irish crowd / Click here