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TRANSCRIPTION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA SPEECH IN DUBLIN
Remarks by the President at Irish Celebration in Dublin, Ireland
College Green, Dublin, Ireland
5:55 P.M. IST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Hello, Dublin! (Applause.) Hello, Ireland! (Applause.)
My name is Barack Obama ó (applause ó of the Moneygall Obamas. (Applause.) And Iíve
come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way. (Laughter and applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Iíve got it here!
THE PRESIDENT: Is that where it is? (Laughter.)
Some wise Irish man or woman once said that broken Irish is better than clever English.
(Applause.) So here goes: T· ·thas orm bheith in …irinn ó I am happy to be in Ireland!
(Applause.) Iím happy to be with so many · cairde. (Applause.)
I want to thank my extraordinary hosts ó first of all, Taoiseach Kenny ó (applause)
ó his lovely wife, Fionnuala ó (applause) ó President McAleese and her husband, Martin
ó (applause) ó for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you, Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and
the Gardai for allowing me to crash this celebration. (Applause.)
Let me also express my condolences on the recent passing of former Taoiseach Garrett
Fitzgerald ó (applause) ó someone who believed in the power of education, someone who believed
in the potential of youth, most of all, someone who believed in the potential of peace and
who lived to see that peace realized.
And most of all, thank you to the citizens of Dublin and the people of Ireland for the
warm and generous hospitality youíve shown me and Michelle. (Applause.) It certainly
feels like 100,000 welcomes. (Applause.) We feel very much at home. I feel even more at
home after that pint that I had. (Laughter.) Feel even warmer. (Laughter.)
In return let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans who
proudly trace their heritage to this small island. (Applause.) They say hello.
Now, I knew that I had some roots across the Atlantic, but until recently I could not unequivocally
claim that I was one of those Irish Americans. But now if you believe the Corrigan Brothers,
thereís no one more Irish than me. (Laughter and applause.)
So I want to thank the genealogists who traced my family tree.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ó right here!
THE PRESIDENT: Right here? Thank you. (Applause.) It turns out that people take a lot of interest
in you when youíre running for President. (Laughter.) They look into your past. They
check out your place of birth. (Laughter.) Things like that. (Laughter.) Now, I do wish
somebody had provided me all this evidence earlier because it would have come in handy
back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago ó (applause) ó because Chicago
is the Irish capital of the Midwest. (Applause.) A city where it was once said you could stand
on 79th Street and hear the brogue of every county in Ireland. (Applause.)
So naturally a politician like me craved a slot in the St. Patrickís Day parade. The
problem was not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name. I told them it was
a Gaelic name. They didnít believe me. (Laughter.)
So one year a few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally
the last marchers. After two hours, finally it was our turn. And while we rode the route
and we smiled and we waved, the city workers were right behind us cleaning up the garbage.
(Laughter.) It was a little depressing. But Iíll bet those parade organizers are watching
TV today and feeling kind of bad ó (applause) ó because this is a pretty good parade right
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Go Bulls!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Go Bulls ó I like that. (Laughter.) We got some Bulls fans here.
Now, of course, an American doesnít really require Irish blood to understand that ours
is a proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship; that we are bound by history and friendship
and shared values. And thatís why Iíve come here today, as an American President, to reaffirm
those bonds of affection. (Applause.)
Earlier today Michelle and I visited Moneygall where we saw my ancestral home and dropped
by the local pub. (Applause.) And we received a very warm welcome from all the people there,
including my long-lost eighth cousin, Henry. (Laughter.) Henry now is affectionately known
as Henry VIII. (Laughter.) And it was remarkable to see the small town where a young shoemaker
named Falmouth Kearney, my great-great-great grandfather, my grandfatherís grandfather,
lived his early life. And I was the shown the records from the parish recording his
birth. And we saw the home where he lived.
And he left during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the
New World. He traveled by ship to New York, where he entered himself into the records
And as they worked and struggled and sacrificed and sometimes experienced great discrimination,
to build that better life for the next generation, they passed on that faith to their children
and to their childrenís children ó an inheritance that their great-great-great grandchildren
like me still carry with them. We call it the America Dream. (Applause.)
Itís the dream that Falmouth Kearney was attracted to when he went to America. Itís
the dream that drew my own father to America from a small village in Africa. Itís a dream
that weíve carried forward ó sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost ó
for more than two centuries. And for my own sake, Iím grateful they made those journeys
because if they hadnít youíd be listening to somebody else speak right now. (Laughter.)
And for Americaís sake, weíre grateful so many others from this land took that chance,
as well. After all, never has a nation so small inspired so much in another. (Applause.)
Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields.
Irish sweat built our great cities. Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and
Irish song; our public life by the humor and heart and dedication of servants with names
like Kennedy and Reagan, OíNeill and Moynihan. So you could say thereís always been a little
green behind the red, white and blue. (Applause.)
When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting
of your sons that caused the British official to lament, ìWe have lost America through
the Irish.î (Applause.) And as George Washington said himself, ìWhen our friendless standards
were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when
it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erinís generous sons?î
When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common
cause with your struggles against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our
great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator,
Daniel OíConnell. (Applause.) His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as
a color but as a man. And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home
Recently, some of their descendents met here in Dublin to commemorate and continue that
friendship between Douglass and OíConnell.
When Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve our young union, more than 100,000 Irish and
Irish Americans joined the cause, with units like the Irish Brigade charging into battle
ó green flags with gold harp waving alongside our star-spangled banner.
When depression gripped America, Ireland sent tens of thousands of packages of shamrocks
to cheer up its countrymen, saying, ìMay the message of Erin shamrocks bring joy to
And when an Iron Curtain fell across this continent and our way of life was challenged,
it was our first Irish President ó our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, who made
us believe 50 years ago this week ó (applause) ó that mankind could do something big and
bold and ambitious as walk on the moon. He made us dream again.
That is the story of America and Ireland. Thatís the tale of our brawn and our blood,
side by side, in making and remaking a nation, pulling it westward, pulling it skyward, moving
it forward again and again and again. And that is our task again today.
I think we all realize that both of our nations have faced great trials in recent years, including
recessions so severe that many of our people are still trying to fight their way out. And
naturally our concern turns to our families, our friends and our neighbors. And some in
this enormous audience are thinking about their own prospects and their own futures.
Those of us who are parents wonder what it will mean for our children and young people
like so many who are here today. Will you see the same progress weíve seen since we
were your age? Will you inherit futures as big and as bright as the ones that we inherited?
Will your dreams remain alive in our time?
This nation has faced those questions before: When your land couldnít feed those who tilled
it; when the boats leaving these shores held some of your brightest minds; when brother
fought against brother. Yours is a history frequently marked by the greatest of trials
and the deepest of sorrow. But yours is also a history of proud and defiant endurance.
Of a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages; that overcame occupation and
outlived fallow fields; that triumphed over its Troubles ñ- of a resilient people who
beat all the odds. (Applause.) And, Ireland, as trying as these times are,
I know our future is still as big and as bright as our children expect it to be. (Applause.)
I know that because I know it is precisely in times like these ñ- in times of great
challenge, in times of great change -ñ when we remember who we truly are. Weíre people,
the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a brighter future, even in bitter times. Weíre
people who make that future happen through hard work, and through sacrifice, through
investing in those things that matter most, like family and community.
We remember, in the words made famous by one of your greatest poets that ìin dreams begins
responsibility.î This is a nation that met that responsibility
by choosing, like your ancestors did, to keep alight the flame of knowledge and invest in
a world-class education for your young people. And today, Irelandís youth, and those whoíve
come back to build a new Ireland, are now among the best-educated, most entrepreneurial
in the world. And I see those young people here today. And I know that Ireland will succeed.
This is a nation that met its responsibilities by choosing to apply the lessons of your own
past to assume a heavier burden of responsibility on the world stage. And today, a people who
once knew the pain of an empty stomach now feed those who hunger abroad. Ireland is working
hand in hand with the United States to make sure that hungry mouths are fed around the
world ó because we remember those times. We know what crippling poverty can be like,
and we want to make sure weíre helping others.
Youíre a people who modernized and can now stand up for those who canít yet stand up
for themselves. And this is a nation that met its responsibilities -ñ and inspired
the entire world -ñ by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge
a lasting peace on this island.
When President Clinton said on this very spot 15 years ago, waging peace is risky, I think
those who were involved understood the risks they were taking. But you, the Irish people,
persevered. And you cast your votes and you made your voices heard for that peace. (Applause.)
And you responded heroically when it was challenged. And you did it because, as President McAleese
has written, ìFor all the apparent intractability of our problems, the irrepressible human impulse
to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation.î
Whenever peace is challenged, you will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse. And
America will stand by you ó always. (Applause.) America will stand by you always in your pursuit
of peace. (Applause.)
And, Ireland, you need to understand that youíve already so surpassed the worldís
highest hopes that what was notable about the Northern Ireland elections two weeks ago
was that they came and went without much attention. Itís not because the world has forgotten.
Itís because this once unlikely dream has become that most extraordinary thing of things:
It has become real. A dream has turned to reality because of the work of this nation.
In dreams begin responsibility. And embracing that responsibility, working toward it, overcoming
the cynics and the naysayers and those who say ìyou canítî ó thatís what makes dreams
real. Thatís what Falmouth Kearney did when he got on that boat, and thatís what so many
generations of Irish men and women have done here in this spectacular country. That is
something we can point to and show our children, Irish and American alike. That is something
we can teach them as they grow up together in a new century, side by side, as it has
been since our beginnings.
This little country, that inspires the biggest things ó your best days are still ahead.
(Applause.) Our greatest triumphs ó in America and Ireland alike ó are still to come. And,
Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems
are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we canít do something, that we shouldnít
even try ó think about all that weíve done together. Remember that whatever hardships
the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner. And if they keep on
arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed: Is fÈidir linn. Yes, we can. Yes,
we can. Is fÈidir linn. (Applause.)
For all youíve contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit
of the world, thank you. And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two great
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, Dublin. Thank you, Ireland. (Applause.)