The First Word:
God Bless America
“With liberty and justice for all.”
–Pledge of Allegiance
This may be the most difficult editorial that I have written since the creation of the magazine 16 years ago. It is difficult not because I have nothing to say or because there is an absence of current events deserving comment. To the contrary — it has been a time of great emotion — a time when there may be too much to write about.
All of us shared a sense of horror in witnessing the incredible hatred and evil that was unveiled on September 11. We were just beginning to work on the Business 100 feature for this issue and were sadly familiar with too many of the firms that were now in the news.
The shock was lessened, however, by a sense of pride in the courage shown by our firefighters, police and rescue workers. The words “e pluribus unum” (from many we are one) could be seen in the reaction of every American. We were all drawn together and united by our compassion and love for our country. And I was filled with a desire to write about the great sense of pride I feel as a naturalized American citizen and the love I have for America and the strength that comes from all of its diversity.
I wanted to write about firefighter Tom Foley, whom we had honored as a Top 100, and the other “brothers” who “ran in as others ran out.” While I could not find the words, Pete Hamill pays the FDNY an eloquent tribute in his “In the Line of Duty” in this issue. And while I am at a loss to articulate the tremendous blow to the Irish American community, Brian Rohan’s “Those Whom We’ve Lost,” also in this issue, shows the magnitude of the tragedy.
Then there was the reaction from my native Ireland. The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, avowed that the solidarity of the Irish and American people must be acknowledged and a national day of mourning was declared. Not ever before in the history of the Republic of Ireland was every business closed as it was on this day. The churchs were filled in every part of the country and I wanted to write about the pride I felt in the response of the land of my birth.
As I continued to struggle to capture in words the emotions I was feeling, there were the rumors of a big announcement from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. Could it be that a breakthrough in the peace process was to be realized?
I attended the press conference of Martin McGuinness, which was coordinated here in New York to follow a similar press briefing held by Gerry Adams in Belfast. Adams and McGuinness announced that they had met with the IRA and asked them to make a courageous move to save the peace process. The following day the world learned of the IRA decision to put arms permanently and verifiably beyond use.
General deChastelain, Chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, announced that it had already begun. This move, more than any other, demonstrates beyond a doubt the commitment of the IRA to the peace process. Certainly, this historic moment is deserving of my editorial attention.
So, what is it that I should write about? Is it the horror of marking September 11 as our entry point into the 21st century? Or the pride of a nation united by compassion? Or perhaps is it a commentary on the nation of Ireland, young in its years but mature in its compassionate outreach not only to its loyal friend, America, but also in its resolve to addressing conflict on its own island of Ireland?
I can only think that we all can find comfort in the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance that I recited upon my swearing in as a new citizen of this great nation “…With liberty and justice for all.” In the end this is what unites us despite our diversity and this is the ultimate answer to conflict around the world. God bless each of you and God bless America. ♦