Bill Clinton began his day yesterday at the Mudan Banquet Hall in Flushing, Queens with over 600 Asian supporters. Among those present were Olympic skater Michelle Kwan and Congresswoman Grace Meng.
It was part of the New York marathon / sprint for the Clinton family as they race around New York seeking votes for Tuesday's Democratic primary in New York.
At an age where 70 is knocking on the door for both of them and many of their contemporaries are hitting golf balls in Florida retirement homes, both Clintons seem fired up and ready to go more than ever.
Bill Clinton seems revitalized, the flames fanned again from the embers of a remarkable career.
After Flushing he headed for the American Irish Historical Society opposite the Metropolitan Museum, the finest Irish building in America. New York State is 16 percent Irish Americans, something that would never have escaped the Clinton machine.
Backstage there was fire in his eyes, the old battle horse has heard the war cannon and is charging in its direction. He bubbled over with enthusiasm discussing the Asian Americans he had just left behind.
But the Irish will always have a special place. There was a real stemwinder of an introduction by host Brian O’Dwyer, the New York civil rights lawyer who recalled the Kennedy legacy on immigration and peace in Ireland and stated the legacy now belonged to Hillary. Congressman Joe Crowley added to the atmosphere, making clear that history was in the making and times they were a changing.
I had the pleasure of announcing the Irish Voice newspaper’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary. I stated, “[Bill Clinton] was the first president in history who cared about the Irish, .. we would not have peace in our beloved Ireland were it not for this man.”
Clinton seized on the moment and the applause to brandish the framed front page editorial and say he was “profoundly grateful” for the gesture, remarking the tiny aran knitwear sweater Hillary held in our endorsement photograph, given to her for their first grandchild at the Irish America magazine Hall of Fame in 2015, would also suit his new grandchild who is on the way.
Then he was off talking about his remembrances of those fraught times in Ireland when peace hung by a thread.
In his remarks, Bill Clinton also mentioned the Good Friday Agreement that established peace and power-sharing in Northern Ireland and Hillary Clinton’s contribution to it. He stated the factions could have continued with their hate, but they decided to reconcile.
He mentioned a specific incident where his wife helped sort out a very fraught period. He recalled meeting a former British Northern Secretary who told him that during a very rough patch nobody they appealed to could bring the two opposite factions together, not the British or Irish government or the politicians themselves.
In desperation the British minister said they turned to Hillary, then Secretary of State, who began working the phones. In a few days the talks were back on again. “We still don’t know how she did it,” said the minister.
The former president stated that he wished the Irish peace process would become “a metaphor” for reconciling extreme factions in Europe and the Middle East, as well as for bringing divided US political opponents together.
“It happened because people who thought they would never, ever, ever stop fighting decided that they cared more about their children’s future than staying off in their own corner and holding on with all their might to the past.”
He also referred to a W.B. Yeats poem, “Easter 1916,” which he said he “read again” after seeing the Irish proclamation at this year’s Irish America magazine Hall of Fame event, just a few weeks ago.
“That poem explains a lot of the mindset now," Clinton said. "It has one of the most powerful single lines in all the English language: ‘Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.’”
He noted how inclusive the proclamation was, treating women as equals, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.
As usual Clinton had reached the core point of that proclamation in minutes.
A friend who knows tells me Clinton does the NY Times crossword in 20 minutes while on the phone at the same time.
He is that smart; so is Hillary. They are trying to make Americans understand that their many problems are far more complex and need far more political experience than a huckster like Trump has. New Yorkers may allow them to take a huge step in that direction on Tuesday.