Irish actress and Hollywood legend Maureen O'Hara 

Here is my annual list of those who have brightened my life this past year. As always, it is so easy to be negative, especially in the media world, which is why Thanksgiving gives us that precious opportunity to say a few words of praise, especially for those older leaders who have led the way for a younger generation.

Top of my list is Maureen O’Hara, the great Irish screen star who just seems to get stronger with age.
She celebrated her 91st birthday with the announcement of a major film school in her name in Co. Cork.  As the years go by The Quiet Man gets more iconic than ever. Many more years of good health Maureen.

Then there’s Pete Hamill, still the greatest chronicler of Irish America. His autobiography A Drinking Life is the best exposition of our culture, warts and wonderful traits combined. Great to see him working on yet another book and on the lecture circuit too.

Gabriel Byrne is giving back in spades. The actor and Irish cultural ambassador is helping fund the new Irish Arts Center and working tirelessly as Ireland’s arts ambassador to bring top notch shows and productions to America.

Liam Neeson, despite the most awful tragedy, the loss of his wife Natasha Richardson after a ski accident two years ago, continues to work to help Irish causes.

Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore of the Irish Repertory Theater do so much to keep Irish drama alive in New York City.

The late Tom Kennedy of the American Ireland Fund was the very definition of an Irish gentleman who sadly passed away recently.

Mary Higgins Clark made such a magnificent grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Parade last year and who continues to defy Father Time with a new bestseller every year.

Don Keough is the man who brought the Notre Dame campus to Ireland and created the incredible Irish Institute at Notre Dame. He has come back from a bout of ill health with all guns blazing -- look for him in Dublin in September when Notre Dame play there.

Dr. Kevin Cahill almost single-handedly saved the American Irish Historical Society in New York.  It is America’s most prestigious Irish location, and he has ensured that it has a very bright future.

Denis Kelleher, a board member who was a huge part of retaining that wonderful American Irish Historical Society building.

Father Joe O’Hare is the former president of Fordham University. If the rest of the Catholic Church were like him there would be millions of converts.

We all take pace for granted the work Senator George Mitchell in our beloved Ireland. Without Mitchell the peace process would never have happened.

President Bill Clinton is still revved up and willing to help Ireland. He is going to host an economic conference to help the old country in 2012. We are lucky to have him in our corner.

Adrian Flannelly and Aine Sheridan are Irish American stalwarts. For over 40 years the Adrian Flannelly radio show has been a beacon for visitors from Ireland and Irish America alike. Long may it prosper.

Happy Thanksgiving!