The follow is a transcription of the speech made by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 2015 Irish American Hall of Fame held on Monday, March 16, in New York City.
Hillary Rodham Clinton was honored for her role in the Irish peace process and specifically her work with the women of Northern Ireland to push for a brighter future.
For a full report on the event click here.
It is such a honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with so many extraordinary honorees.
I very much want to thank Niall....
Niall has been a true friend and a great counselor over the years and I want to thank him and Patricia for what they have built it's not only a great accomplishment for those who have been part of it and those employees who have been honored but really for the broader community.....
It's a wonderful feeling being here. It's kind of like a family reunion.
I want to acknowledge all of you who have been part of the American Ireland Fund John [Fitzpatrick], Loretta [Glucksman], all of you who have been involved in that fund since its inception. Thank you for continuing it because there's still a lot of work to be done in the North and we need everybody making contributions and being supportive. I was also very please to have the opportunity to share this honor with Bob McCann and Pat Quinn and Emmett O'Connell all incredibly impressive people for all of their many accomplishments.
I appreciated what both Niall and the Minister said about how one often has to take risks for peace. I remember very well when the request came, back in 1993, that my husband approve a visa for Gerry Adams, who is here with us today. Nobody in the government would approve it as Gerry and my friend Kris Balderston and many others remember and it was a very difficult position. It seems like an obvious one in retrospect but at the time much of our own government certainly other governments were against such a gesture and I think it is true that absent that first step that first risk we might not have had the momentum to move forward to the Good Friday accords and all that has followed.
I for one am delighted that we are not just talking about St. Patrick's Day and all the great memories that it embodies but we're honoring people like Don Keough who had the vision of what was possible and we're remember that role the the Irish American community, the Diaspora, played in moving those Troubles towards an end.
I'm glowing about it and it's not only that it's also because I am a grandmother....
It is a very important reminder about what you should spend your time thinking about and doing. We all get so busy whether we're in business or government or, like Father Jenkins, the president of a great institution, we all get so busy that it's easy to forget why we do what we do. At the end of the day it is to provide better opportunities, prosperity, peace for those closest to us and particularly the next generation and everyone else's children and grandchildren as well.
And that to me is really what we all should be reminded of. When I look at Charlotte who will be six months by the end of this month I am reminded that she will have many many opportunities. Her family will make sure of that. We will do whatever we can to give her the best education, to give her the best understanding of values and how to treat others but I would like that for every child. Every child not just in the United States, not just in Ireland but every child everywhere.
That does require courage and it requires some risk taking.
I was privileged to be in Belfast in November 1995. To stand and to look out at that vast crowd and to see, as the Minister said, the most incredible sight, all of the parents holding their babies, their toddlers, their young children, on their shoulders. To be part of not just lighting the Christmas tree but lighting what it stood for - the hope of peace.
There was no guarantee in 1995 as to what would happen. We stayed at the Europa Hotel which still had boarded up windows that had been broken or shattered by bomb blasts. The occupancy was just the president and his traveling party. As I went back over the years and I saw the changes that came because people were willing to suspended disbelief to look for a way forward I remember the time I was there, at the Europa, and asking the manager "How's occupancy?", "Nearly 100%" he said.
There were so many indicators of what could be possible if people could overcome their long seated concerns and fears and begin to reach towards one another. In particular therefore I was to accept this award on behalf of all the wonderful women who I met and admired in Northern Ireland.
We heard about Joyce McCarten, Inez McCormack and so many others who I sat down with and shared tea with and talked with. I remember very well hosting a vital voices event in Belfast toward the end of my time at the White House. We had invited a much larger group of women from both communities to come and sit at the same table it wasn't easy but enough agreed and we sat there awkwardly in the beginning waiting for somebody to make the first statement, ask the first question, and finally one woman said she was there because she was tired of worry about her son every time he walked out the door to go to school, whether he'd come back alive. And then another woman on the other side of the table said she was there because she was tired of worrying about her husband whether he would come home from work, whether he would come back from a night out with his friends and all the differences were crystallized by the commonalities. These women, these mothers, these wives, they all of a sudden acknowledged that they feared the same things and that opened the door. They may have attended different Churches but seven days a week they said silent prayers for the return of a child, a husband, a friend. And with unstoppable leaders like Joyce and Inez they contributed to the demand to the end of violence. They simply would not take no for an answer.
I've seen this in many places around the country, where women move from being victims to being agents for change but I've never seen it more clearly more resolutely than I saw in Northern Ireland. They said with one voice to really end this conflict we need to think about jobs and housing schools and policing to build a safe society that offers a decent future to all our children.
So with the Good Friday Agreement young people were involved, victims of violence were involved in reconciliation, the release of prisoners and their reintegration was speeded up, there were great efforts made to integrate schooling, housing, even playgrounds, so what had been an agreement negotiated around a table with the strong support of the president of the United States and under the able leadership of his envoy George Mitchell all of it seemed real in the lives of everyday people.
There is still work to be done but that remains a crucial lesson you cannot bring peace and security to people just by signing an agreement in fact more peace agreements don't last. There's been some very important work done in recent years where women are involved and therefore where the work of peace permeates down to kitchen table, to the backyard to the neighborhood, around cups of tea, there's a much better chance that an agreement will hold.
So as we look forward to St. Patrick's Day tomorrow I would repeat what I said on my last visit to Belfast in 2012 where I asked the large group gathered to make sure that those who still didn't feel the benefits of peace began to. A young man from a Loyalist community whose father can't find work sees his own chances for a good job slipping away, a young woman from a Republican family who has given up the idea of going to college because she needs to get a job to support her family. You can't have lasting peace and progress without people believing life will be better because of it. There has be genuine social and economic inclusion that's true there and that's true around the world.
So there is a lot to celebrate. There's a lot that we have been able to accomplish starting with that decision of my husband's to grant that visa and then to get involved and then to put forward a peace process which the participants can tell you often involved a lot of silent people, sitting around a table, not yet reading to talk to one another, but it was never disbanded the goals was never given up, it just took time to build some kind of relationship.
I think that it's a great lesson for so many who have their own conflicts their own divisions. It's also a great reminder that the work in the North is not finished even as we speak negotiations to try to resolve governmental issues. As dysfunctional as governments can be anywhere in the world it's better it have people arguing about that than walking away and thinking that conflict may be the only answer.
I thank you for this honor. I thank you for your many years of kindness and friendship and I wish all of you a very happy Saint Patrick's Day.