Joe Biden on how important his Irish heritage is to him and how he carries it with him always.
Joe Biden is hugely proud of his Irish roots. The Scranton, Pennsylvania Democratic presidential nominee has previously quoted Seamus Heaney in his speeches and more recently made a point during the first presidential debate of bringing up his roots and religion.
He said, "They look down their nose on people like Irish Catholics and like me and people who don't have money."
Biden, who is proud of his strong Irish roots visited Ireland in 2016 during his tenure as vice president during the Obama administration.
Ancestry documented the former vice president and proud Irish American’s emotional visit to his ancestral home. During his stay, he praised the true Irish welcome he had received and reflected on the lessons his Irish roots had afforded him.
Biden’s great-grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated from County Louth as a child, in 1850. All eight of his great-great-grandparents on his mother’s side was born in Ireland during, the first half of the 19th century. On his father’s side, two great-grandparents were also born in Ireland. Essentially that makes him five-eighths Irish.
What’s clear is that his visit to Ireland, his ancestral home clearly touched the former vice president of the United States.
In the letter below, the former vice president wrote in advance of his 2016 visit why returning to Ireland was so personally meaningful:
I’m leaving for a very special trip tomorrow.
I’m going back to Ireland – the country from which my ancestors hailed, and a country whose independence the Easter Rising set in motion, 100 years ago this year. It is my first dedicated trip to this nation as Vice President – during which I’ll meet with the country’s leaders, discuss issues of trade, economic recovery, migration and refugee policy, and other national security challenges, and celebrate our shared heritage. Our shared values of tolerance. Diversity. Inclusiveness.
And it’s a trip I’m so deeply grateful to be taking alongside my children and grandchildren…
…Over the course of my life, I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve traveled all around the world – more than a million miles on Air Force Two alone. I’ve been honored to have held a lot of titles. But I have always been and will always be the son of Kitty Finnegan. The grandson of Geraldine Finnegan from St. Paul’s Parish in Scranton; a proud descendant of the Finnegans of Ireland’s County Louth. The great-grandson of a man named Edward Francis Blewitt, whose roots stem from Ballina, a small town in Ireland’s County Mayo – sister city to my hometown in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An engineer with a poet’s heart. Months after my mother passed away, I found an old box of his poems in my attic.
In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family.
And that is America: This notion that home is where your character is etched. As Americans, we all hail from many homes. Somewhere along the line, someone in our lineage arrived on our shores, filled with hope. We are blessed to experience that simultaneous pride in where we’ve found ourselves, while never forgetting our roots.
James Joyce wrote, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”
Well, Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul. And as we join the world in celebrating everything that Ireland has become, and indeed everything that she has always been, I could not be more honored to be returning.
You can see what I see right here and across social media.
I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
* Originally published in 2019, last updated in January 2021.