“Our focus is to create ladders of opportunity to help people get to the middle class through the construction trades. That’s really why you do it.”
– Sean McGarvey
This year’s Hall of Fame honorees reflect the length and breadth of the Irish-American experience. They show us the extraordinary impact that the Irish have had in every aspect of American life – the arts, politics, labor, and education – and they make us believe that the American dream is possible.
Our honorees were not born into wealth, nor did they have an easy path to where they are today. On the contrary, their success grew out of resolve, willpower, determination, acumen, and somebody helping them along the way – that is the stuff that the American Dream is made of.
Eileen Murray grew up in a housing project and worked all through high school and college in a supermarket, and as a powerful business leader is a proponent of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Sean McGarvey finished high school and went straight into a union apprenticeship program, and as a union leader, he is making sure that program is available to many others. Jean Butler put thousands of hours into her dance training to make her Riverdance debut look effortless, and inspired a generation of dancers to do the same.
Through dogged persistence Patrick Doherty helped bring about fair hiring practices in Northern Ireland; Congressman Richie Neal is in one of the oldest Irish professions serving his constituents, and for over 40 years has been a dedicated friend of Ireland, lobbying for peace in the north.
Persistence and brainpower are the core of Kathleen Murphy’s success. Like Eileen Murray, she is one of the few women to reach the top of the ladder in the financial industry. Perhaps she inherited some of her great-uncle’s hardscrabble determination (read about the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Roger Connor in this issue). Like Eileen, too, she supports inclusion and diversity in the workplace, and encourages and educates women on how to achieve financial independence.
Tom Kelly is an educator who, like the Irish nuns of the past, is training his students not only to achieve great things, but on how to live a “giving life.”
And, as she did in the ’60s, Judy Collins is using her talent to voice her concern over human rights issues. Collins recently wrote and recorded a protest song, now on the billboard charts, called “Dreamers” in response to the current administration’s policies on immigration and asylum seekers, and in particular the policy that is deporting teenagers brought here as babies to countries they are strangers to.
In every issue, but in this one in particular, we remember the ancestors who left Ireland in hard times, never made it home again, and often depended on the kindness of strangers.
As today’s immigrants are doing, they took that huge step into the unknown with hope in their hearts for a better life for their children.
And looking down from Heaven on our Hall of Fame honorees, they would say, “You did good.”
Mórtas Cine. ♦