"The immigrant's heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland."
- Irish President McAleese
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day - a day usually associated with drinking and revelry. But St. Patrick's Day really means more than all of that. The day represents a celebration of a culture - a culture that has spread its roots across America and been a part of its very growth and development into a mighty nation.
A survey conducted in 2008 by the United States Census Bureau found that 39,278,332 of us can trace our roots back to Irish ancestry. There are another 3.5 million Americans who are of Scotch-Irish ancestry. There is only one ancestral group larger in this country and that's German Americans.
A majority of the Irish did not come to this country with silver spoons in their mouths. They came as indentured servants. They fled their homeland because of famine and many had been political prisoners of one sort or another. They were not respected in the least by the then blue-nosed aristocrats who had settled the country originally.
The Irish settled into hard-labor jobs. Some joined the Army and many died during the Civil War. Most didn't even know what they were fighting for and many killed fellow Irishmen.
Even into the 1940s the Irish people were still being disrespected in the U.S. In many communities in Norfolk, Va., signs read "all dogs and Irishman keep off the grass."
The Irish immigrants arose from these positions of despair by banding together and getting elected to public office. They took control of their own destinies and their families by taking pride in their new country while keeping in mind their roots. As a result, 22 American presidents including Barack Obama can trace their roots to their Irish ancestors.
Some became famous Irish writers, actors and industrialists. James Cagney, Walt Disney, F.Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Ford are all of Irish descent. There were some notorious bad Irish folks too. Famed outlaw Billy the Kid and Lee Harvey Oswald come to mind.
Yes it is fun to be Irish, or part Irish or pretend Irish. Their celebration of life and death is renowned and an important thought to think of tomorrow when you eat corned beef or sip on an ale. What the Irish culture brought to this country was remarkable and we still are enjoying the benefits of it.
So tomorrow feel free to celebrate. Feel free to revel in the fact that because the varied of cultures in this country, we can celebrate life as we wish - in freedom. Happy St. Patrick's Day from all of us here at The News.