After 25 years as editor of Irish America magazine, I have a green tinge to my brain, or perhaps I should say, I see the world through green-tinged glasses.
This quirk -- of which all my friends are aware of and indulge me -- comes into its own whenever there's show on television.
For instance, watching The People's Choice Awards a couple of weeks ago, I bolted out of my chair as Alyson Hannigan took to the stage to receive her award. I had to rush to Wikipedia to find out if she was Irish.
As it turns out, Alyson, who won the Favorite TV Comedy Actress award is Jewish and Irish -– the daughter of Emilie Posner, a real estate agent, and Al Hannigan, a truck driver.
I quickly pointed out to those gathered to watch the event on my LCD that the star of How I Met your Mother is but one of several Jewish/Irish persons in the entertainment field. Those include Kevin Kline and Bill Maher. Both were interviewed by Irish America magazine, and Kline, whose mother is Irish, talked about Catholic school and not "discovering" his Jewishness until he was filming Sophie's Choice.
It's a fact that the Irish in the U.S. married into other ethnic groups more than any other group (basically, wherever they found a warm bed). Henry Gates an African American, and the host of Faces of America, which premiers on PBS this week, traces his roots to Ireland to the 4th-century Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages!
But I digress.
Don't you just love How I Met Your Mother’s Golden Globe-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris?
As I watched Neil host the Emmys, I couldn't have been more proud of him had he been my own relation (wait a minute, Irish actor Richard Harris' mother was a Harty).
This green-tinged peculiarity of mine also carries over to sports.
The head of the Vancouver Olympic Committee is John Furlong. He is from my home county of Tipperary, and I worried about the unseasonably warm weather on his behalf. But the women's moguls went ahead as planned.
Hannah Kearney looked nervous as she readied herself for her run -– the conditions where not the best and she had a lot to prove. In 2006, favored coming into the event, she failed to qualify. I swear I didn't take a breath until she finished her run. And then I had tears in my eyes.
She won the gold.
How much courage and determination it must take to make that kind of comeback?
But then, the name Kearney is coined from the Gaelic O Catharnaigh meaning "war-like," and Hannah, whoever her ancestors are, inherited some true grit.
"There's a reason Vermont produces so many Olympians: We're so stubborn; we're not going to quit till we make it to the top of our sport," Kearney later told Patrick Garrity of the Burlington Free Press.
That refusal to quit is what I see, whenever I see someone with an Irish name do well.
The Irish who settled in Vermont needed to be tough. They were poor, mostly famine immigrants (some had come over in the earlier famines of the 1820s and '30s). They landed in Canada (cheaper passage) and often times walked across the border (meeting vigilante groups along the way) into Vermont and neighboring Maine and New Hampshire.
They were not welcome. (By the mid 1850s more than 100 members of the Vermont House were members of The Know Nothing movement -- an anti-foreign sentiment pledged to end the spread of Catholicism.)
But they got on with it; working on the railroads and in the quarries. By 1860, the Irish were Vermont's largest ethnic group.
In 1974, Patrick Leahy, the grandson of an Irish immigrant who was a granite worker in Barre became the first Irish Catholic (and first Democrat) elected from Vermont to the U.S. Senate. And in 2010, a girl named Hannah Kearney won a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics.
Beir bua, Hannah.
(Beir bua: win out or triumph over.)
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”