Happy Paddy's Week -- A Son Of Erin

[ Posted Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 – 12:00 UTC ]

[Program Note: Today we offer up a speech from that well-known Son of Erin, Barack O'Bama. Heh. While I'm sure I won't be getting the same reception that President Obama got, I will indeed be interested to hear what the Irish think of how Obama's been doing on my trip. One thing Americans (for the most part) don't realize is how closely the rest of the world follows our politics. Most Americans think: "We don't follow foreign countries' political situations, so why should they follow ours?" This is not correct, though, because American politics affects the rest of the world much more than, say, who is currently running any particular country in Europe. They pretty much have to pay attention, since it affects their own situation so greatly. In any case, here's Obama's speech from 2011, as we all nurse our post-Paddy's Day hangovers.]


Originally published May 24, 2011

Barack Hussein Obama is not exactly the first name that springs to mind when the average person thinks of American politicians with Irish roots, to say the least. But Obama does indeed have Irish ancestry, and he certainly played this up in his recent visit to the Emerald Isle. Today, we are going to print the full text of Obama's address to an ecstatic Dublin crowd.

Before we get to the text of the speech, we have two technical notes and then a bunch of "in joke" footnotes to get through. You can skip these, if you like, and just read the speech (or just refer back to them if you see something that makes you scratch your head).

Normally, when printing politicians' speeches, I edit out anything shouted out from the crowd. However, in the early portions of this speech, Obama "ad libs" a few remarks in answer to such shout-outs, so this time it was necessary to provide them for context. I also usually edit out all the "(Applause)" or "(Laughter)" interjections provided by the White House in such transcripts, but these also were almost necessary to understand the flow of the early parts of the speech, so I left them in this time as well.

As for the explanatory items, Obama's ancestry was traced by Megan Smolenyak to a small town named Moneygall in Ireland. Obama visited the town before he gave this speech, and downed a pint of Guinness Stout in the local pub (which they refused to let him pay for, a trait the Irish show in small towns to many American visitors). The Queen of England, who also recently visited Ireland, was served a pint of Guinness and daintily refused to drink it, so the Irish were happy to see Obama actually down his ("in four gulps," according to at least one report).

Taoiseach is Gaelic (or "Irish") for what would be called in English the "Prime Minister." It is a title, not a name (it's a little confusing in the transcript). Warning to Americans and other English-speakers: don't even try "sounding out" Gaelic words, because you'll just cause riotous laughter among true Gaelic speakers when making such a foolish attempt. Gaelic spelling seems almost random, when compared to how these words properly sound when spoken aloud.

The Gardaí are the police. Chairde (spelled "cairde" in the official White House transcript) means "friends" or "dear friends."

Ceád mile fáilte is a traditional Irish greeting, which translates as "a hundred thousand welcomes."

The Corrigan Brothers are an Irish band with a big hit called "There's No One As Irish As Barack O'Bama," which can be viewed online. They performed for Obama in Moneygall. According to an article in the Limerick Post, "The group will return to the U.S.A. later in the year to play 10 dates at the start of Obama's next presidential campaign," which should be fun to see.

"Donegal coasts and Dingle cliffs" would be the last glimpses of Ireland you could see when travelling on a boat across the Atlantic. Although most emigrants would not have seen any such sight, as they would have been below decks, in steerage (the cheapest possible tickets). But poetic license is perfectly acceptable in Ireland.

Falmouth Kearney was Obama's ancestor who came over from Ireland. He makes this fairly obvious in the speech, though.

The most famous Irish-American family is without doubt the Kennedy clan, but Ronald Reagan, Tip O'Neill, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan are also Irish-American politicians well-known to the Irish.

I'm not familiar with the story of shamrocks being sent to America during the Great Depression, which is what I'm assuming Obama is referring to ("When depression gripped America..."). I'll look into this one further.

For a full explanation of "...a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages..." see the wonderful book How The Irish Saved Civilization. When the Dark Ages swept across Europe, and all written words were suspicious which did not come from the Church, Ireland alone kept copying every bit of writing it could lay its hands on (it's a fascinating book, and a fascinating story).

"Troubles" is always capitalized, and quite specific in meaning to the Irish. It covers (roughly) the period between the 1960s and the 1990s.

William Butler Yeats wrote the line "in dreams begins responsibility."

That's enough, let's get on with the actual speech.

-- Chris Weigant


May 23, 2011 -- College Green, Dublin, Ireland

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you! (Applause.) Hello, Dublin! (Applause.) Hello, Ireland! (Applause.) My name is Barack Obama -- (applause) -- of the Moneygall Obamas. (Applause.) And I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way. (Laughter and applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I've got it here!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Is that where it is? (Laughter.)

Some wise Irish man or woman once said that broken Irish is better than clever English. (Applause.) So here goes: Tá áthas orm bheith in Éirinn -- I am happy to be in Ireland! (Applause.) I'm happy to be with so many á chairde. (Applause.)

I want to thank my extraordinary hosts -- first of all, Taoiseach Kenny -- (applause) -- his lovely wife, Fionnuala -- (applause) -- President McAleese and her husband, Martin -- (applause) -- for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you, Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and the Gardai for allowing me to crash this celebration. (Applause.)

Let me also express my condolences on the recent passing of former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald -- (applause) -- someone who believed in the power of education, someone who believed in the potential of youth, most of all, someone who believed in the potential of peace and who lived to see that peace realized.

And most of all, thank you to the citizens of Dublin and the people of Ireland for the warm and generous hospitality you've shown me and Michelle. (Applause.) It certainly feels like 100,000 welcomes. (Applause.) We feel very much at home. I feel even more at home after that pint that I had. (Laughter.) Feel even warmer. (Laughter.)

In return let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish-Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island. (Applause.) They say "Hello."

Now, I knew that I had some roots across the Atlantic, but until recently I could not unequivocally claim that I was one of those Irish-Americans. But now if you believe the Corrigan Brothers, there's no one more Irish than me. (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to thank the genealogists who traced my family tree.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- right here!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right here? Thank you. (Applause.) It turns out that people take a lot of interest in you when you're running for President. (Laughter.) They look into your past. They check out your place of birth. (Laughter.) Things like that. (Laughter.) Now, I do wish somebody had provided me all this evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago -- (applause) -- because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest. (Applause.) A city where it was once said you could stand on 79th Street and hear the brogue of every county in Ireland. (Applause.)

So naturally a politician like me craved a slot in the St. Patrick's Day parade. The problem was not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name. I told them it was a Gaelic name. They didn't believe me. (Laughter.)

So one year a few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers. After two hours, finally it was our turn. And while we rode the route and we smiled and we waved, the city workers were right behind us cleaning up the garbage. (Laughter.) It was a little depressing. But I'll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad -- (applause) -- because this is a pretty good parade right here. (Applause.)


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Go Bulls -- I like that. (Laughter.) We got some Bulls fans here.

Now, of course, an American doesn't really require Irish blood to understand that ours is a proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship; that we are bound by history and friendship and shared values. And that's why I've come here today, as an American President, to reaffirm those bonds of affection. (Applause.)

Earlier today Michelle and I visited Moneygall where we saw my ancestral home and dropped by the local pub. (Applause.) And we received a very warm welcome from all the people there, including my long-lost eighth cousin, Henry. (Laughter.) Henry now is affectionately known as Henry VIII. (Laughter.) And it was remarkable to see the small town where a young shoemaker named Falmouth Kearney, my great-great-great grandfather, my grandfather's grandfather, lived his early life. And I was the shown the records from the parish recording his birth. And we saw the home where he lived.

And he left during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the New World. He traveled by ship to New York, where he entered himself into the records as a laborer. He married an American girl from Ohio. They settled in the Midwest. They started a family.

It's a familiar story because it's one lived and cherished by Americans of all backgrounds. It's integral to our national identity. It's who we are, a nation of immigrants from all around the world.

But standing there in Moneygall, I couldn't help but think how heartbreaking it must have been for that great-great-great grandfather of mine, and so many others, to part. To watch Donegal coasts and Dingle cliffs recede. To leave behind all they knew in hopes that something better lay over the horizon.

When people like Falmouth boarded those ships, they often did so with no family, no friends, no money, nothing to sustain their journey but faith -- faith in the Almighty; faith in the idea of America; faith that it was a place where you could be prosperous, you could be free, you could think and talk and worship as you pleased, a place where you could make it if you tried.

And as they worked and struggled and sacrificed and sometimes experienced great discrimination, to build that better life for the next generation, they passed on that faith to their children and to their children's children -- an inheritance that their great-great-great grandchildren like me still carry with them. We call it the America Dream. (Applause.)

It's the dream that Falmouth Kearney was attracted to when he went to America. It's the dream that drew my own father to America from a small village in Africa. It's a dream that we've carried forward -- sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost -- for more than two centuries. And for my own sake, I'm grateful they made those journeys because if they hadn't you'd be listening to somebody else speak right now. (Laughter.)

And for America's sake, we're grateful so many others from this land took that chance, as well. After all, never has a nation so small inspired so much in another. (Applause.)

Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields. Irish sweat built our great cities. Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and Irish song; our public life by the humor and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Reagan, O'Neill and Moynihan. So you could say there's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue. (Applause.)

When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting of your sons that caused the British official to lament, "We have lost America through the Irish." (Applause.) And as George Washington said himself, "When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin's generous sons?"

When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O'Connell. (Applause.) His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a color but as a man. And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage.

Recently, some of their descendents met here in Dublin to commemorate and continue that friendship between Douglass and O'Connell.

When Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve our young union, more than 100,000 Irish and Irish-Americans joined the cause, with units like the Irish Brigade charging into battle -- green flags with gold harp waving alongside our star-spangled banner.

When depression gripped America, Ireland sent tens of thousands of packages of shamrocks to cheer up its countrymen, saying, "May the message of Erin shamrocks bring joy to those away."

And when an Iron Curtain fell across this continent and our way of life was challenged, it was our first Irish President -- our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, who made us believe 50 years ago this week -- (applause) -- that mankind could do something big and bold and ambitious as walk on the moon. He made us dream again.

That is the story of America and Ireland. That's the tale of our brawn and our blood, side by side, in making and remaking a nation, pulling it westward, pulling it skyward, moving it forward again and again and again. And that is our task again today.

I think we all realize that both of our nations have faced great trials in recent years, including recessions so severe that many of our people are still trying to fight their way out. And naturally our concern turns to our families, our friends and our neighbors. And some in this enormous audience are thinking about their own prospects and their own futures. Those of us who are parents wonder what it will mean for our children and young people like so many who are here today. Will you see the same progress we've seen since we were your age? Will you inherit futures as big and as bright as the ones that we inherited? Will your dreams remain alive in our time?

This nation has faced those questions before: When your land couldn't feed those who tilled it; when the boats leaving these shores held some of your brightest minds; when brother fought against brother. Yours is a history frequently marked by the greatest of trials and the deepest of sorrow. But yours is also a history of proud and defiant endurance. Of a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages; that overcame occupation and outlived fallow fields; that triumphed over its Troubles -- of a resilient people who beat all the odds. (Applause.)

And, Ireland, as trying as these times are, I know our future is still as big and as bright as our children expect it to be. (Applause.) I know that because I know it is precisely in times like these -- in times of great challenge, in times of great change -- when we remember who we truly are. We're people, the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a brighter future, even in bitter times. We're people who make that future happen through hard work, and through sacrifice, through investing in those things that matter most, like family and community.

We remember, in the words made famous by one of your greatest poets that "in dreams begins responsibility."

This is a nation that met that responsibility by choosing, like your ancestors did, to keep alight the flame of knowledge and invest in a world-class education for your young people. And today, Ireland's youth, and those who've come back to build a new Ireland, are now among the best-educated, most entrepreneurial in the world. And I see those young people here today. And I know that Ireland will succeed. (Applause.)

This is a nation that met its responsibilities by choosing to apply the lessons of your own past to assume a heavier burden of responsibility on the world stage. And today, a people who once knew the pain of an empty stomach now feed those who hunger abroad. Ireland is working hand in hand with the United States to make sure that hungry mouths are fed around the world -- because we remember those times. We know what crippling poverty can be like, and we want to make sure we're helping others.

You're a people who modernized and can now stand up for those who can't yet stand up for themselves. And this is a nation that met its responsibilities -- and inspired the entire world -- by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge a lasting peace on this island.

When President Clinton said on this very spot 15 years ago, waging peace is risky, I think those who were involved understood the risks they were taking. But you, the Irish people, persevered. And you cast your votes and you made your voices heard for that peace. (Applause.) And you responded heroically when it was challenged. And you did it because, as President McAleese has written, "For all the apparent intractability of our problems, the irrepressible human impulse to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation."

Whenever peace is challenged, you will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse. And America will stand by you -- always. (Applause.) America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace. (Applause.)

And, Ireland, you need to understand that you've already so surpassed the world's highest hopes that what was notable about the Northern Ireland elections two weeks ago was that they came and went without much attention. It's not because the world has forgotten. It's because this once unlikely dream has become that most extraordinary thing of things: It has become real. A dream has turned to reality because of the work of this nation. (Applause.)

In dreams begin responsibility. And embracing that responsibility, working toward it, overcoming the cynics and the naysayers and those who say "you can't" -- that's what makes dreams real. That's what Falmouth Kearney did when he got on that boat, and that's what so many generations of Irish men and women have done here in this spectacular country. That is something we can point to and show our children, Irish and American alike. That is something we can teach them as they grow up together in a new century, side by side, as it has been since our beginnings.

This little country, that inspires the biggest things -- your best days are still ahead. (Applause.) Our greatest triumphs -- in America and Ireland alike -- are still to come. And, Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can't do something, that we shouldn't even try -- think about all that we've done together. Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner. And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed: Is féidir linn. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Is féidir linn. (Applause.)

For all you've contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit of the world, thank you. And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two great nations.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, Dublin. Thank you, Ireland. (Applause.)

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “Happy Paddy's Week -- A Son Of Erin”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Did the American media totally miss the flap over the Biden joke? Boy, it was certainly big news here...

    Google "Biden" and "orange" to find out what I'm talking about...


  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What kind of big news ... are they calling for his resignation?

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Did the American media totally miss the flap over the Biden joke? Boy, it was certainly big news here...

    Wasn't much reported here at all..

    But that's our Uncle Joe.. never met a pile of doo doo he didn't want to step in! :D


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Did the American media totally miss the flap over the Biden joke? Boy, it was certainly big news here...

    It was likely drowned out by the news of the Israeli people giving the finger to Obama and telling him in no uncertain terms to stay the frak out of their elections...

    It was a pleasure for me to see that.. So pleasurable, it almost makes me feel guilty.. :D


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    On a totally unrelated note..

    CW, have you seen INTERSTELLAR yet??

    Knowing how you like realistic (IE soundless) space scenes, I think you would be very approving of INTERSTELLAR... :D

    Plus the movie itself is mind-blowing...

    A definite must-see...


  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Dear CW-

    Hope you and your wife are having a wonderful vacation in Ireland.

    Michael is substituting in your absence. Naturally, the tone of has changed a's almost like Steven Colbert (in full Colber Repor persona) has been given the guest chair. I for one am enjoying the interlude, but I suspect shelf life will be short - like switching from your favorite coffee for bit.

    Regards, Stig

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    No, but I finally got around to seeing Gravity. Overrated, in my opinion. I mean, I liked some of the special effects, but that was about it.

    LizM -

    Actually, part of Ireland appreciated the joke. It was just those up in the North that got annoyed.


    Michale -

    Obama interfering in the Israeli elections? Are you kidding me? John Boehner was the interferer. I mean, granted, it worked, but still, let's get our facts straight shall we?

    And for all your bluster, keep in mind that Bibi only won something like 1/4th of the seats in their parliament. Not exactly a landslide, in other words.

    TheStig -

    So far, so good! Thanks for the good vacation wishes. Still don't know what will be appearing here next week, no promises one way or another.

    I'm getting ready to format Friday's article now, so that'll be appearing on schedule...


  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Obama interfering in the Israeli elections?

    Yea, many of Obama's minions were working for the opposition IN Israel..

    This is well-documented..

    And for all your bluster, keep in mind that Bibi only won something like 1/4th of the seats in their parliament. Not exactly a landslide, in other words.

    Considering that Bibi was expected to LOSE, the election wasn't even close..

    The Likud Party got 30 mandates..

    The Leftist Party got 22....

    That WAS a landslide, considering...

    No, but I finally got around to seeing Gravity. Overrated, in my opinion. I mean, I liked some of the special effects, but that was about it.

    Yea, GRAVITY was OK... But INTERSTELLAR was.. well... Stellar!!


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Obama interfering in the Israeli elections?

    Something like 70% of Israelis felt that Obama was interfering in their elections..

    If it quacks like a duck.....


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:
  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    This is why Hillary's use of her own private email server is so egregious...

    I am certain that no one can successfully refute the point..


  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Michael is substituting in your absence. Naturally, the tone of has changed a's almost like Steven Colbert (in full Colber Repor persona) has been given the guest chair. I for one am enjoying the interlude, but I suspect shelf life will be short - like switching from your favorite coffee for bit.

    Why, thanks TS!!! I think... :D

    I am trying to be on my best behavior.. I tend to be the proverbial mouse when CW's attention is elsewhere.. But that cat at the top of the page is freaking me out.. :D

    "OK, Cyclops Lady is starting to bug me."
    -Rockhound, ARMAGEDDON


    But I am trying to stick with topics that are easily defended and/or universally accepted as fact...

    Nice ta know I have at least one fan... :D

    ROCK ON!!! :D


  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    And for all your bluster, keep in mind that Bibi only won something like 1/4th of the seats in their parliament.

    Also keep in mind that Bibi DID win, which is something I predicted would happen, my little foray into Supernatural notwithstanding.. :D


  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    Best analysis of the Israeli election to date...

    Bottom line, Israelis trust Bibi more than they trust Obama...

    And, rightly so...


Comments for this article are closed.