Sure we all know Ireland’s great, but sometimes it’s important to be reminded of exactly why. John Saunders, president and CEO of the public relations firm FleishmanHillard, delivered the keynote address at the 31st annual Business 100 awards, held by IrishCentral’s sister publication Irish America magazine in early December. In his delightful and thoughtful speech, Saunders covered a lot of ground, relating his experience with the Irish in the U.S. and citing the impact Irish Americans had on his sense of self and his career, and he also reflected on some of the more surprising qualities that make Ireland and the Irish so unique.
Enjoy this list of reasons why Ireland is great, adapted from his speech, and then take a few minutes to hear his full remarks in the video below.
1. We are proudly European, but we adore America.
2. We’re fiercely conservative, but we’re often liberal, too. We became the first European country to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants, and who could have imagined that? We were the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.
3. Donegal, according to National Geographic, is the coolest place on earth.
4. In October, Conde Nast voted Ballyfin in Co. Laois the number one hotel in the world, and Ireland took all three places in the top ten.
5. United States firms employ 144,000 people in Ireland today, but do you know that Irish firms employ more than 140,000 people in America? That’s fair trade.
6. The biggest single crowd of Americans to assemble at one time in Europe since WW2 was when Notre Dame bought 35,000 people to watch their game in against Navy 2012.
7. Where my mother comes from, in south Armagh, just on the border, I can remember British soldiers in our fields, I can remember the police tenders being thrown into the Newry Canal, I remember all the killings along where my mother comes from, I remember when Justice Gibson was blown up, I remember all of those times. In my lifetime, we moved from that to the glorious moment a few years ago when Her Majesty the Queen came to Ireland with such deep respect for our country. What a transformation.
8. We’ve given the world Conor McGregor.
9. When China’s Xi Jinping when on his last world tour, he took in only three countries: the United States of America, Turkey, and Ireland.
10. The first overseas leader invited to the White House by your President-elect Trump is our prime minister, our taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
11. Our nouveau riche economy almost fell apart a few years ago. We went from 4% to 15% unemployment in just a few years, and now it’s right back down to just over 7%.
12. We look forward, we lean in, we don’t dwell on the past, but we never forget where we Irish have come from. When the Irish came to New York, when the Irish went to London, thinking that the streets were paved with gold and discovering that not only were the streets not paved at all, but they were the ones who were going to have to do the paving. We never forget the lack of opportunity that there was for so many our parents and our grandparents.
Do you have any other favorite reasons why Ireland is great? Share them in the comment section.
Check out the full list of Irish America’s Business 100 honorees here and read more about the awards ceremony here.