Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed, for decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America… Enda Kenny, Taoiseach
Maybe because some of us tend to forget our ancestor’s journey, is the reason why history repeats itself.Maybe with each successive wave of immigration, we should remember our own history. While many demand that certain groups stay out, or assimilate faster, it would be a good time to recall that it took generations for our families to complete the journey.
My ancestor’s left Ireland during the Famine. They made their way to New York and to the marble quarries of Westchester County. Later, they moved a few miles into Yonkers and made their living at the Alexander Smith Carpet Mill. Here in Yonkers, branches of my family tree joined together. My great-grandfather, after several years in the carpet factory, was the first to leave the labor field for a desk job selling insurance. Fifty years later, after World War II, my grandfather, 3rd generation Irish, left the enclave and reinvented himself in Washington, D.C.
Three generations of quarry labor and factory work. Three generations before my grandfather broke away. From serving in the Coast Guard, he discovered his love of radio and love of performance. He landed a radio job in DC, which led later to television and advertising. My father, fourth-generation, was the first to go to college.
As the Taoiseach says, the Irish came here because they believed in the shelter, compassion, and opportunity of America. They worked hard for generations in order to provide for their families. It took generations to move out of the neighborhood from which all was familiar, to leave the remnants of Ireland behind.