On March 17, in this country and in our community we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a day celebrated throughout the land with parades and merriment and music.
Celebrating this day is the right thing to do in this country because there is not a race of people who have contributed more to the might and culture of America than the Irish.
You are probably thinking that as you read this that I am off celebrating this grand day at the closest Irish bar. Not true.
Years ago I stopped celebrating this day in that manner. When last I sat down to try to write about my favorite memories of celebrating St. Pat’s day, knowing full well that I did have a good time, the truth of the matter is I just couldn’t remember what those good times were.
We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at our house. When our oldest granddaughter, Kyla, lived with us when she was a small child, the Leprechaun would come in the middle of the night to visit her, as he used to visit her mother in the same manner. Now her sister and brother enjoy the same visit.
Some of the kids at her school scoffed at her when she said she believed in Leprechauns.
It’s too bad because the Leprechaun only visits boys and girls who believe, and our granddaughter, who is a very smart 14-year-old, will tell you she truly believes as she opens her treats from the Leprechaun.
The Irish can take great pride in being Americans because, after all, in the 6th Century this land was first discovered by an Irish monk named St. Brendan.
Those of you, who would scoff, need to know evidence of the Saint’s visit was recently discovered in caves of the West Virginia Mountains.
In fact, to this very day some people refer to that state in talking about it by calling it west “By God” Virginia, further evidence of the Saint’s visit.
My Italian friends have always been a little jealous on how our country celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick was actually a Roman citizen before he got the calling and learned that he could charm snakes. Once he saw Ireland he became an Irishman in his heart forever. There has always been unhappiness in the Italian community that more people celebrate St Pat’s day than Columbus Day.
I don’t know why. I enjoy eating pizza and a good bottle of Boones Farm grape on Columbus Day myself.
In fact, there was so much jealousy that the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic church, which has been dominated by Italian cardinals over the centuries, actually tried to have St. Patrick kicked out of the sainthood some years ago.
Actually, the Italians have been smarter than the Irish in this country. They managed to have Columbus Day declared a federal holiday, even though it is a dubious holiday now at best.
Celebrating St. Pat’s day has cost many a Paddy his job, because it is not an official holiday in this country; only in the minds of those who celebrate it.
The Irish people always have been and are to this day a brave, smart and independent race, and they are also very prolific and have multiplied faster than bunnies.
The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud once said about the Irish, “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.”
There were eight Irish signers of the Declaration of Independence. Half of all of the troops who fought in the Revolutionary War were Irish, including 1,492 officers and 26 generals.
In fact great deals of the British soldiers were Irish.
Just before the Civil War, millions of Irish came to our shore to try and escape the great potato famine that killed millions of them in the 1840s and ’50s, my own great-great-grandfather included.
When most arrived, they were treated as if they were the scum of the Earth. In fact, there were signs on people’s lawns all the way up to WWII that stated “No Dogs or Irish Allowed on the Lawn.”
Many signed on with the military, where they were promised citizenship.
Many of those were sent to the American plains to fight the Indian wars, and there, many were beaten and scourged by some officers who hated them because they were considered Papists, and there was a fear that because of the Irish Catholic influx that the Pope would soon be ruling the country.
Some of the Irish deserted and went to Mexico, where they were treated with respect. In fact, during the war with Mexico, the Irish formed a battalion in the Mexican Army called the San Patreicio’s, who fought valiantly against the American troops, which ironically contained many of their Irish cousins.
The battalion was finally decimated and the survivors were tortured and hung by General Winfield Scott in spite of the protests of the Mexican government and the world.
These men were never citizens of the U.S.
The San Patricio’s today are honored in Mexico and in Ireland for their courage and gallantry. You can rent a great movie on this subject. It is called “One Man’s Hero.”
During the Civil War, at least seven Union generals were Irish born and 150,000 Irish Americans fought for the north and south both.
Six Confederate generals were born in Ireland. In fact, the first two casualties of the Civil War were Irish.
In the history of this country, more than 300 Irish Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor; 21 of them are double Medal of Honor winners.
The culture and arts of this country has been forever affected by the writings of F, Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Eugene O’Neal, George M Cohan, Stephen Foster, Tom Brady, Edgar Allan Poe and, of course, T. Pat Cavanaugh.
There have been 23 presidents of our country who were of Irish ancestry, including Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Chester A. Arthur, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Both Bushes, Bill Clinton and our current president can trace his roots back to an Irish shoemaker.
There are numerous folks of Irish decent that have made this country into what it is today, including John Barry, who was the father of the American Navy; Daniel Boone; Davy Crockett; James Hogan, who designed the White House; Matthew Brady, the Civil War photographer; Henry Ford, who started the Ford Motor Company; Dr. Thaddeus Cahill, who developed the electric typewriter in 1901; Henry McCarty, aka Billy the Kid, who was one of our notorious outlaws; and John Wayne, a great American actor.
There have been so many other Irish-American heroes, including William Randolph Hearst, John L. Sullivan, Father Francis Duffy, William “Wild Bill” Donavan, Sam Houston, John Ford, John Huston, Grace Kelly, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Bing Crosby and Spencer Tracy, and the list goes on.
This contribution to American society has not been without dishonor, as Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall in New York City became one of the most corrupt political machines in the history of this country, the Daley machine still in charge in Chicago is not much better.
The courage the Irish showed in rising above the prejudice and hatred shown them when arriving in this country is a remarkable history lesson, one that other ethnic groups would be wise to study and learn.
The Irish who settled this country would not and have not been denied.
I am proud of my Irish heritage. I celebrate it with vigor and pride, but the most important thing is that I am proud to be an American and I am even more proud that my ancestors and the ancestors of many of you who are reading this today gave their sweat, their blood and their heart in making this country the strongest, the most literate and the fairest that has ever existed.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.