June 30, 2016
"in all of their dreams, could they ever have dreamt that 160 years later, two great-great-grandsons of shoemakers from Ireland would be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States of America?"
BY ED FORRY
You’ve got to admire Joe Biden, a man who shares so many of our common Irish-American roots.
The vice president visited Ireland last month, tracing his Mayo and Louth ancestry with his children and grandchildrem. Just before he embarked, he invited folks to follow his visit online, and his words echo the experience of so many Irish Americans on that “voyage home” to Ireland.
“I’m heading out on a very special trip today,” Biden wrote.
“I’m going back to Ireland – the country from which my ancestors hailed. It is my first dedicated trip to this nation as vice president – during which I’ll meet with the country’s leaders, discuss issues of trade, economic recovery, migration and refugee policy, and other national security challenges, and celebrate our shared heritage. Our shared values of tolerance. Diversity. Inclusiveness.
“And it’s a trip I’m so deeply grateful to be taking alongside my children and grandchildren. Over the course of my life, I’ve been to a lot of places. I’ve traveled all around the world – more than a million miles on Air Force Two alone. I’ve been honored to have held a lot of titles. But I have always been and will always be the son of Kitty Finnegan; the grandson of Geraldine Finnegan from St. Paul’s Parish in Scranton; a proud descendant of the Finnegans of Ireland’s County Louth; the great-grandson of a man named Edward Francis Blewitt, whose roots stem from Ballina, a small town in Ireland’s County Mayo – sister city to my hometown in Scranton.
“He was an engineer with a poet’s heart. Months after my mother passed away, I found an old box of his poems in my attic. In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family.
“And that is America: This notion that home is where your character is etched. As Americans, we all hail from many homes. Somewhere along the line, someone in our lineage arrived on our shores, filled with hope. We are blessed to experience that simultaneous pride in where we’ve found ourselves, while never forgetting our roots.”
Biden had a busy six-day visit. From a base in Dublin, where he met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins, Biden visited family roots in both Mayo and Louth. Flying cross-country in a C-17 dubbed “Air Force 2,” Biden became the first American vice president to land at Ireland West Airport Knock in Mayo, where he joined the Taoiseach for a round of golf. Later, he attended a special Chieftains performance at Matt Malloy’s in Westport.
In Louth, he toured the historic Kilwirra Church at the foot of the Colley Mountains, where some of his ancestors were baptized. The Veep had lunch at Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant in Dundalk, an eatery once owned by distant cousins of his.
Back in Dublin, he toured Kilmainham Prison, and in a speech at Dublin Castle, referencing the Irish roots he shares with President Obama, he said:
“Around the same time my great-great-grandfather, Owen Finnegan, the shoemaker, boarded the Brothers [ship] on May 31, 1844, another shoemaker named Joseph Kearny, from Moneygall, sailed aboard the Caroline Reade, arriving in America just five weeks before my great-great-grandfather.
“It’s doubtful they ever knew each another. But one thing we do know – they left everything behind for an uncertain future. And in all of their dreams, could they ever have dreamt that 160 years later, two great-great-grandsons of shoemakers from Ireland would be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States of America?”
Joe Biden has been a great vice president. Too bad his term soon comes to an end. Wouldn’t he be the perfect choice as a running mate for Hillary this fall? Think about it…!