At the turn of the century, the twentieth century, the average male could live until he was in his early fifties. When I was born in 1926, it crawled into age 60. Today it’s nearing 80, thank God.
And each year because of this remarkable – the greatest medical research in history – most people will live longer and healthier lives. America is, and still is, a land of hope and promise. And yesterday, today and tomorrow people are standing in lines at our embassies, seeking visas to come here and to touch freedom.
[As for] Ireland, that magical island so tucked away that the ancient Romans couldn’t find it! They conquered every land they’d ever found! That magical island that was discovered by the Vikings and the French and the Normans, [by] Saint Patrick, [by] American golfers and Al Gore! That magical island that has brought the world great writers and playwrights and great actors and great composers and great patriots, great entrepreneurs and great religious and political leaders, that island that birthed people who now are exciting, who are entrepreneurial, they have great leadership qualities and they’re graduating some of the brightest and youngest people in the world.
That little island that has given us 16 of our only 43 presidents, in both political parties, and some Irish students of the game say it’s 22. That magical island is populated today by a group of people very hopeful of their tomorrow. But Ireland also gave us Patricia Harty and Niall O’Dowd, who brought their wit and wisdom and vision to sort of open the door so that people like those of us sitting in this room could re-find our Irish heritage. Not the stage Irish, with the red nose and the bottle in his hand and the butt of jokes, but you – the American Irish leaders who are a vital part of mainstream America, who are leaders in every facet of our society. That magical little dot on the map, my God, I feel proud and lucky that, like you, I can claim to be a small part of its history, past, present and future, and I feel immensely proud to be here with you today. Congratulations, and God Bless you all.