In this second installment of my interview with Gerry Adams, we discussed the powerful feelings evoked by the brave actions of founders in the US civil rights movement and the effect it had on his thinking. In the first installment we discussed the Boston College Tapes and the pardoning of the 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted their posts in World War II, in order to go off and fight the Nazis.
As our discussion continued, Gerry mentioned what turbulent times the world was swept up in during the 60's and 70's, those great social changes occurring around the globe as people struggled for equality. "The Kennedy Brothers, John and Robert said it best, life is unfair, but how you resist and act about it, is key." Of course the assassinations of Americas leaders of change, the Kennedy Brothers and the Reverend, Martin Luther King Junior, in the midst of the great civil rights movement, just added to the surrealism and turbulence of those days.
At that point I asked Gerry if he had seen the new George Lucas movie, Red tails, which was about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II depicting black airmen breaking the race barrier. Our conversation then focused in on a personal note that affected Gerry's life and in turn struck a bond between Gerry and the United States.
Read more about Red Tails and Americas fight for equality below:
George Lucas film "Red Tails" proves race still a factor with Hollywood elite
Red Tails, from a unique American perspective
Marin Luther King Monument is a tribute to Americas greatness
Gerry shared: "I remember reading 40 years/50 years ago about this woman who refused to sit at the back of the bus, Rosa Parks was a hero of mine", he said. He continued " Mine was a generation who became politically and socially inspired by these courageous people." I was a founder, although junior member of this great movement, who modeled ourselves after the US civil rights movement. We even borrowed the anthem We Shall Overcome".
Gerry was moved by these courageous acts and took note of how change can be brought about peacefully. Rosa Parks bravery to be the first to defy an unjust law, designed to keep her as a 2nd class citizen, made an impression on Gerry. He didn't forget these courageous Americans as he struggled with Ireland's own brand of inequality at the time and worked to help bring about change to his country.
When Gerry was invited to the United States to meet with US leaders as the peace process started, he requested a meeting with a most inspirational US citizen, Rosa Parks. He said " I was delighted to meet her and brought with me a small presentation from the people of Ireland."
As America became more involved in the peace process under the Clinton Administration, President Clinton sent his top emissaries over to Ireland to meet with leaders. Gerry said: "During these times there was still a lot of turmoil over here just trying to get the peace process passed and approved" Clinton sent his very close friend and powerful ally, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, to help in this endeavor.
Ron Brown, who happened to be a black American could make much happen with his influence in the Clinton Administration. Being the personality that he was, he and Gerry instantly hit it off, and Ron asked Gerry: " Tell me what I shouldn't ask you to do?" Gerry replied back without thinking: " Just don't ask me to sit at the back of the bus". At that instant a powerful bond of trust and understanding was forged between the two men, that stretched across the ocean. They both understood the importance of what their undertaking was and from that moment forward, there was great support and cooperation from the United States in the efforts to bring a just and fair society to Ireland through non violent means.
Tragically, Ron Brown was killed in a plane crash soon after, but the bond that had been formed between him and Gerry was transferred to the rest of the American administration from then on. America has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Irish people to help them attain equality and fairness and to bring economic growth to the country.
It's always interesting to look back on life's twists and turns, to put your finger on a defining moment. Of course it is always much easier to do that in the relative ease and comfort that 20/20 hindsight affords you. While you're in the midst of crashing through your challenges, sometimes it is rare to get that clarity. But the Rosa Parks moment spread ripples throughout the world, which are still reverberating.
Next we will be discussing why his party, Sinn Fein is becoming more powerful in Ireland. We will talk about the changes that have come about as the result of the Good Friday Agreement and how this will lead to a united Ireland, sooner rather than later.
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