Weekly Comment:
Hillary Clinton Inducted to
Irish America Hall of Fame

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at the Irish America Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon at the Essex House in New York, March 16, 2015. (Photo: Ben Asen / Irish America)

By By Mary Pat Kelly, Contributor
March 18, 2015

“Irish Americans for Hillary,” said the buttons on the tables in the ballroom of the Essex House Hotel where Irish America magazine honored Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton for her work in advancing the Irish Peace Process by inducting her into the Irish America Hall of Fame, which is based on the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in New Ross, County Wexford, the ancestral home of John F. Kennedy who inspired her husband Bill Clinton to enter public service.

Joining Secretary Clinton were three other outstanding inductees, the philanthropist Robert J. McCann, CEO UPS Group America, Emmett O’Connell, head of Great Western Mining, who has spent his life strengthening the bond between Ireland and America and Pat Quinn, creator of the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised millions for ALS research.

Malcolm Byrne, Oisin O'Connell and honorees Emmett O'Connell and Pat Quinn, photo by Nuala Purcell

Malcolm Byrne, Oisin O’Connell and honorees Emmett O’Connell and Pat Quinn.
(Photo: Nuala Purcell / Irish America)

While Hillary did not announce her candidacy for President her speech left no doubt as to why she is willing to endure the rigors of campaigning – an ordeal she knows all too well – and the attacks of an opposition determined to demonize her. It’s because of the children, the Secretary said. Hillary Rodham Clinton has always worked to improve the lives of children, a commitment made very concrete now that she is a grandmother.

“When I look at Charlotte who will be six months at the end of this month, I am reminded that she will have many opportunities,” Hillary said. “We will do whatever we can to give her the best education, the best understanding of values and how to treat others.”

And now her voice became impassioned. “But I would like that for every child, not just in the United States, not just in Ireland, but every child everywhere,” she said.

Hillary Rodham Clinton receives an Aran sweater for her granddaughter from Irish America magazine, photo by Nuala Purcell

Hillary Rodham Clinton receives an Aran sweater for her granddaughter from Irish America.
(Photo: Nuala Purcell / Irish America)

So simple yet so profound – every child deserves the advantages the Clinton grandchild has by virtue of her birth. And because the audience sensed these words were coming straight from her heart they heard the sentiment in a new way. The sustained applause said, “Yes we understand. Why pursue peace except to save the children? Why work for prosperity if not to give the next generation a better life?” Secretary Clinton went on to say, “You can’t have lasting peace without people believing life will be better because of it.” This was the message Bill and Hillary Clinton brought to Northern Ireland in 1995 when they lit the Christmas tree in Belfast as a beacon of peace. And by focusing on Northern Ireland the Clintons did help bring about the Good Friday Agreement.

But peace agreements break down she said, unless there is “genuine economic progress and social inclusion.”

Honoree Pat Quinn, Jenn Quinn and Gerry Adams, photo by Nuala Purcell

Honoree Pat Quinn, Jenn Quinn and Gerry Adams. (Photo: Nuala Purcell / Irish America)

The involvement of women is often the deciding factor. Peace must permeate a society and women are the ones who can work together to make sure that genuine relationships cement the peace at the level of families and neighborhoods.

And yesterday’s lunch was in many ways a celebration of women. Founding editor Patricia Harty set the tone. Seven of Hillary Clinton’s great-grandparents were immigrants, she said. They left the familiar to seek a better life for their families. Harty said that Hillary Clinton’s longest Northern America connection came from her French-Canadian ancestors. Harty paid tribute to the French Canadian nurses and doctors and nuns and priests who aided the Irish fleeing the “Great Starvation” of the 1840s when they were quarantined on Grosse Isle. Many would end up lying in unmarked graves. It was French-Canadian families who adopted their orphaned children making sure that they understood their Irish heritage. It an off-the-cuff moment before she began speaking, Hillary Clinton said perhaps if she looked more closely at her ancestors she might find some Irish blood after all. But as genealogist Megan Smolenyak reported in Irish America, Clinton had enough Welsh and Scotish ancestors to qualify as a Celtic cousin.

Bob McCann and Father John Jenkins, photo by Ben Asen

Bob McCann and Father John Jenkins. (Photo: Ben Asen / Irish America)

Minister of the Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphrey, speaking for the Irish people, said, “Thank you for standing with us one peace was not the inevitable outcome.”

Minister Heather Humphrey, photo by Nuala Purcell

Minister Heather Humphrey. (Photo: Nuala Purcell / Irish America)

When Bill and Hillary Clinton traveled to Northern Ireland in 1995 peace was certainly not the inevitable outcome. Those were dangerous times. I traveled with the press. Two reporters were assigned the task of reporting on any assassination attempts. The courage the Clintons showed as they moved through crowds, opening their arms to the people of Ireland, north and south, will always be remembered.

“I have been many places in the world were women moved from victims to agents of change,” Hillary Clinton said, “But never but I have never seen it more clear, more resolute than I saw in Northern Ireland.”

Irish Americans for Hillary indeed. ♦

The honorees were presented with custom engraved House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Bowls. Photo by Nuala Purcell/Irish America

The honorees were presented with custom engraved House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Bowls. Photo by Nuala Purcell/Irish America


For more photos of the event, click through our photo stream here

For full video coverage of the event, visit msnbc.com, or click here.

Read the full transcript of Secretary Clinton’s remarks on IrishCentral.com.

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